Cites & Insights July 2004 1
Cites & Insights
Crawford at Large
Volume 4, Number 9: July 2004 ISSN 1534- 0937 Walt Crawford
Making Some Lists
This being the ALA Annual issue, I thought I’d ex-cerpt
lists of good advice I’ve seen on the web. The
first subtopic relates directly to ALA and other
conferences. The second may be relevant as well,
since conferences rely on people giving presenta-tions.
Hints for Making the Most of
Eli Edwards offered the initial list on April 30 at her
weblog, Confessions of a Mad Librarian. Here are short
versions of her suggestions and others provided in
comments on the posting. ( I could quote all of this
in full since the weblog has a CC BY- NC license, and
the full versions are better— but Eli’s doing her own
compilation for her library school student publica-tion
and I don’t want to steal her thunder.)
The ALA event planner is, to some extent,
your friend. It is useful if you know exactly
what you want to do at conference.
ALA unit webpages listing programming ( for
a division or roundtable) are your friends:
Unit programming may help you decide
which units work for you.
“ Your friends, physical and virtual, within
ALA are your friends.” Go to programs in-volving
people you know, respect, and ad-mire.
If you don’t like the program, leave.
“ The conference program book… may not be
your friend.” It’s huge, complicated and a
tough way to find and select programming.
“ However, the maps inside are really useful.”
There’s no shame in “ following the food” to
Prioritize. “ There’s a lot to do and there
probably won’t be enough time to do every-thing
you ideally would like to do.”
Try to get all your planned events on one big
I added my own tip, “ based on my failure to do so in
Don’t overschedule. If that event planner is
full, you’re doing too much. Leave time for
exhibits ( of course) but also for sightseeing,
goofing off, sleep.
Jessamyn ( presumably West, the rarin’ librarian at
librarian. net) offered 11 more suggestions “ that sort
of interfile with yours.” In part and sometimes para-phrased:
Prioritize— but have backups for every event
Meals can be for networking or for resting.
Know which kind you’re signing up for.
If you’re on an expense account, don’t as-sume
that others are; choose restaurants
Inside This Issue
Bibs & Blather.................................................................... 3
Feedback & Followup......................................................... 6
Trends & Quick Takes ........................................................ 8
Ebooks, Etext & PoD....................................................... 10
The Library Stuff ............................................................. 16
Interesting & Peculiar Products ....................................... 18
The Good Stuff ................................................................ 19
“ The free shuttle bus is your friend”— but
don’t count on it always being timely.
Mail stuff home or check bags of freebies at
the coat check.
Don’t hog the email terminals— and don’t
count on them being available.
“ You will walk miles every day, you may go
hours without eating”— wear comfy shoes,
carry water and snacks.
Figure out what you’re interested in early at
the conference, highlight items in the con-ference
book’s daily schedules, then rip out
those pages and leave the heavy book in
Mix it up: Keynote speakers and small pan-els,
lectures and demos.
It’s easy to move into a leadership role in
some of the groups you’re sitting in on;
think beforehand how much involvement
Cites & Insights July 2004 2
If you know you’ll have to leave a small talk
or panel early, let the presenter or chair
know in advance, so they don’t assume
they’re boring you silly.
Regarding leadership roles: It may not true for every
group and every division, but I can attest that it’s
very easy to become an officer or program planner in
a LITA Interest Group if you show the slightest in-terest
in doing so. Being a newbie or lacking creden-tials
won’t matter: Good divisions welcome newbies
and ALA units operate on the basis of mutual trust.
Mary K. added five more suggestions and sec-onded
the “ mail stuff home” suggestion ( she notes
that Canada Post had an outlet right in the confer-ence
center at the ALA/ CLA conference; so does
USPS at almost every ALA conference):
Bring a notebook to jot down interesting
topics and discussion points.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions in a pro-gram.
“ If you didn’t understand something
and need it clarified, chances are that some-one
else feels the same way too.” ( I’ll second
that and note that it’s a real kindness to
speakers. I gave a talk recently in which one
key term wasn’t clear to many of the atten-dees;
fortunately, someone asked and I had
the chance to clarify.)
Strike up conversations with people in line
or waiting for a session.
“ Business cards, business cards, business
cards.” If you don’t have them, you can
print your own…
“ Try and travel in packs,” particularly in a
strange city. Chances are, someone will know
something about the city.
All good advice. Do remember to glance at the ads
in the conference book as you page through it, be-fore
ripping out the maps ( and maybe the daily
schedules): Those ads help pay for ALA.
Suggestions for Presenters at
Credit Michael Stephens for this; he speaks fre-quently
and posted this on April 23, 2004 at his
Tame the Web: Technology and Libraries weblog. Again,
I’m excerpting or paraphrasing— and I don’t see a
Creative Commons license on his blog. My own
snarky comments are in square brackets.
Always be prepared. Have multiple digital
versions of your presentations and a plan if
nothing works. “ Could you do the material
cold from your notes and handout?”
If it’s a track, try to hear the other
speakers. Not only is it respectful but it can
improve your talk if you’re able to change it
on the fly— and it makes the whole track
Share! When there’s more than one speaker
in a program, keep to your time limits, both
so there’s time for questions and so later
speakers don’t get shafted. [ I’ve “ done” a 20-
minute presentation in a five- minute slot be-cause
I was preceded by academics who
should know better… and it gets real tire-some.
In my experience, those who can’t
keep to time limits are usually inferior
speakers as well.]
Have fun! Librarians aren’t that formidable
and you shouldn’t hide behind your notes.
Know your stuff, but there’s nothing
wrong with “ I don’t know.” If you’re really
provoking thought, someone’s going to ask a
question you can’t answer. That’s good.
���� Be mindful of acronyms. See my comment
on Mary K’s second point in the previous
section. “ Define, even if you think everyone
in the place knows what you are talking
about.” [ Stephens used “ At ILF, I off-handedly
mentioned RFID…” as an example
of this point. One perceptive comment said:
“ What’s ILF?”]
There are no stupid questions. [ Well,
that’s not entirely true, but close enough.]
Deliver a clear message. Try to put techno-logical
explanations in everyone’s terms.
Humor works, but not at anyone’s expense
except your own.
Don’t rule out certain conferences. Why
can’t you speak at ALA? “ If you have some-thing
good to say, look for ways to say it.”
It’s not ME ME ME… it’s “ what can we
talk about and learn that will help our li-brary
users get to information better, faster
and in a way they will recognize the great
value of libraries.”
Later that day, Karen Schneider added a dozen more
items on her non- work weblog, Free Range Librarian.
Many relate directly to use of technology within the
speech: Try to talk directly to the “ technology peo-ple”
beforehand, mention them during the talk, and
thank them afterwards. Label your own equipment
( cords, etc.). Ask for a lavalier mike. Use their com-puter
rather than your own, given a choice— but
bring yours anyway. And “ never, ever assume the
technology is ‘ taken care of.’” Check the setup and
nudge if necessary. Then there are the following:
Ask someone to be your timeclock and to
give several warnings.
If you’re on a panel with someone going way
overtime, “ hand them a very large note.”
[ Good advice. Unfortunately, the worst of-
Cites & Insights July 2004 3
fenders will ignore every note, even someone
standing directly in front of them with a
TIME’S UP card. Yes, I’ve seen it happen.]
There’s nothing wrong with appropriate self-promotion,
“ Wear something nice. However, wear some-thing
you’ve worn before, so you’re comfort-able
“ Praise your audience.” They did have the
good taste to choose your session.
“ Consider going post- PowerPoint”— that is,
using PowerPoint for visual information and
moving beyond it instead of having bullet
points for every sentence in your speech.
“ By all means, do not show up and read
from your slides.” [ Would that every speaker
would read and pay attention!] She goes on
to note that one good use of PowerPoint is
for screen shots as backup if you’re using
web examples— and the only time I’ve used
PowerPoint since 1989, except for work oc-casions,
was primarily for screenshots.
Thanks, Michael and Karen.
Notes on the Writing Life
Here I’m presented with an ethical quandary.
NMRTWRITER is the New Members’ Round Table
New Writers List ( nmrtwriter@ ala. org) and it’s open
to writing librarians in general— I haven’t qualified
as a “ new member” since 1979, but I was welcomed
immediately. At times, the list has been deathly
quiet. In May 2004, it picked up considerably with
threads about writing and weblogs, writing and not
writing, how people deal with deadlines, how people
deal with possible theft of ideas, and the like.
I printed off ten of the postings to use as back-ground
for an essay, then decided it would make
more sense to excerpt them here. Most comments
are from experienced writers; if nothing else, they
make the point that we’re all different, with different
motivations and different needs. Some of us rely on
deadlines; some survive by staying way ahead of
deadlines. Some think about writing all the time;
some have to force themselves to write at all. Some
think blogging is good practice for writing, some
don’t. Some believe you need to write every day
( and think a 1,000- words- a- day target makes sense);
some believe big breaks in the process help. Some
just love reviewing; some can’t hack it.
And that’s as much of a set of excerpts as you’re
going to get— without credit to the first- rate minds
that made the comments, I’m afraid. Why? Because
NMRTWRITER is a relatively small list and is a
community of writers and would- be writers. I think
it’s OK for me to mention some of the things the
community is thinking about, but I don’t think it’s
OK for me to produce a detailed set of notes.
If you think you should be part of the
NMRTWRITER community, you can probably find
out how to join by going to the NMRT portion of
ALA’s website, or maybe the “ lists portion.” Then
you can read the archives for yourself.
Bibs & Blather
Orlando will mark the sixth year and 12th conference
since a LITA committee invited a group of
“ trendspotters” to sit around and talk about library-related
technology trends worth watching. I’m a lit-tle
astonished that it’s been that long— and that I’ve
been part of the group all that time. People have
been added to the group and a few have left. With
rare exceptions, you never see all the “ trendspotters”
at either the informal Midwinter gathering or the
increasingly- big- deal Annual panel.
Earlier this year there was some discussion of
LITA Top Technology Trends ( TTT) on the LITA list
and elsewhere. That discussion made me think
about the group and my own role. Since those
thoughts are ill formed and don’t rise to the level of
a proper PERSPECTIVE, I’m putting them in BIBS &
Who Certifies the Trends?
One discussion thread centered on validation and
certification. Were TTT members checking their
trends against appropriately authoritative sources?
Why should LITA members accept TTT’s assurance
that these were the technology trends?
A few TTT members work in arenas that make
them likely to be aware of the most important new
issues— but some don’t. We read, listen, think, and
respond. Some TTT members may vet their ideas
with “ authoritative” sources; some certainly don’t.
The idea of TTT is to raise awareness— not to as-sert
that each list is the set of important topics.
Why isn’t Trend X on the Current List?
The Midwinter list arises quite differently than the
Annual one, but in neither case do we sit around
reviewing all the old lists and seeing which trends
should remain. The old lists all stay on the TTT
website and there’s no reason to believe that an
“ old” trend is no longer important. ( We have talked
about dying trends once in a while, but I don’t be-
Cites & Insights July 2004 4
lieve the group has ever explicitly asked that a previ-ous
trend be marked “ No longer interesting.”)
TTT at Midwinter is a three- hour morning ses-sion
with continental breakfast, intended primarily
for the trendspotters and committee members, de-cidedly
informal and sometimes argumentative. It
can’t be a closed meeting but visitors are expected to
be observers. Ideas and criticisms get tossed back
and forth rapidly and frankly throughout the ses-sion.
Some of us initially expected TTT at Annual to
be a shorter version of the same thing, but that’s not
what it’s become ( and may not have been the origi-nal
intent). Instead, it’s essentially a panel program,
with TTT trendspotters up front and anywhere from
50 to ( lately) 600 or more people in the audience.
It’s even being recorded these days. Given sizable
huge audience and shorter time, Annual remarks
tend to be more focused and possibly better pre-pared.
There’s less time for back- and- forth within
the panel— but there’s more opportunity for audi-ence
interaction. My guess is that blue- sky “ trend”
possibilities are more likely to arise at Midwinter,
and those can be interesting.
The lists are at least partially cumulative. Think-ing
about this blather ( when I still thought it was
worth a separate essay), I thought it would be inter-esting
to prepare an alphabetic list of all the trends
cited on the TTT website, ignoring chronology.
Turns out there is such a list as part of the website
itself: “ Top technology trends by topic,” with dates
for each topic. Of 49 topics— listed below— only 10
have been listed more than once, with two of those
mentioned three times and one four times.
What about the Makeup of TTT?
What makes these people experts? Why aren’t there
more women? Why aren’t there more NexGen/ GenX
librarians? If “ Why on earth is so- and- so on the
group?” was never mentioned, that’s probably be-cause
librarians tend to be a polite bunch.
I’ve never been part of the TTT committee— the
appointed group that invites TTT trendspotters, sets
up the discussions, takes notes, distributes and re-vises
the list of trends raised, and prepares resource
lists that accompany those trends on the TTT web-site.
They’re a hard- working group ( not unusual for
LITA or any other divisional committees) and de-serve
credit for keeping this whole odd enterprise
going as long and as well as it has.
Should there be more women on TTT? Maybe.
Should there be more younger and more techno-philic
At which point, of course, I look at the only
situation I can directly influence and say, not for the
first time: “ Why am I still part of this group?” Since
there’s not a set limit for the group size, my depar-ture
wouldn’t directly open a spot for someone
younger, more technologically hip, or more female,
but it would reduce the number of tired old skeptics
( possibly to zero)— and that might be a good thing.
By roughly the midpoint between Midwinter
and Annual, I had almost decided to make Orlando
my swan song, resigning from TTT because I never
really was a trendspotter and might be dragging
down the level of technological enthusiasm. I took
some of the list criticisms personally— not because
any of them were aimed at me, but because I resem-bled
those remarks. Six years is as long as you can
serve on an ALA divisional committee. Maybe that
I mentioned that possibility to a few other
trendspotters and other acquaintances active in the
profession and familiar with TTT. While I can’t say
resigning from the group is now out of the question,
I can say that I’ve been persuaded to reconsider. The
phrase “ reality check” came up more than once to
describe my role on the group. While serving as a
reality check isn’t the most comfortable role in the
world, it may be a needed role— and it’s apparently
one that suits me.
As for the rest of TTT— well, I’m guessing that
the committee members are open to suggestions.
You can find their names on the LITA portion of
The Trends Themselves
So what of the trends identified to date? The web-site
lists them by conference or by topic, with links
to suggested sets of resources on each trend and brief
commentaries on some topics. Here’s the list, in al-phabetic
order, with my own quick comment in a
few cases. Those comments are only my own and
should be regarded with at least as much skepticism
as I apply toward hot new developments. I’m abbre-viating
dates: “ M00” means “ ALA Midwinter Meet-ing
2000,” “ A03” means “ ALA Annual Conference
2003.” If these don’t make sense to you, go visit the
Authentication [ M99]. Still important, not
entirely settled yet.
Automating reference [ A00]. “ Virtual” and
real- time computer- mediated reference is
fairly common these days and clearly
worthwhile; true “ automated” reference is
something else entirely.
Blogging [ A03]. Overhyped but worthwhile,
both for some libraries and some librarians.
Broadband [ M02].
Convenience [ M01]. Always important,
sometimes mildly dangerous.
Cites & Insights July 2004 5
Convergence [ M00]. I have trouble thinking
of this as anything more than a buzzword.
Co- opting Existing Technologies [ M99]. One
reason OpenURL works well is that it lever-ages
Z39.50; there are many other exam-ples—
but the inclusion discusses non- library
technologies, sometimes but not always
worth adapting or adopting.
Copyright [ A01, M04]. Unbalanced copy-right
gets in the way of many library tech-nology
Customization/ personalization [ M99, A00].
Cyber Infrastructure [ A03]
Digital Rights Management [ M04]. Another
face of copyright but potentially even more
damaging to library possibilities.
Ebooks [ M01]. As revolutionary change,
dead. As useful supplements and niche
Evaluation of Internet Sources [ M99]
Game Technology [ A02]
Handhelds [ A03]. ( I think this is the same
as PDAs/ Portability)
Hiring Good Systems Personnel [ A01].
Home Scholars [ M99]
Human Factors [ M99]
Infrared [ A02]. Is this currently an interest-ing
technology in libraries, or have various
radio systems ( WiFi etc.) supplanted it and
its line- of- sight limitations entirely?
Integrated Online Library Systems [ A02,
M04]. Are these becoming disintegrated—
and is that a good thing?
Internet Use in Libraries [ M00]. I’d suggest
that this is now part of the infrastructure,
like stacks and books.
Library Catalogs [ M01]. Same as Integrated
Online Library Systems? Or not?
Library/ Librarian Roles [ M00]
MARC and XML [ A00, A03, M04]. Neither
one is going away; how do we make the best
use of both in common systems?
Metadata Harvesting [ A01]
Metasearching/ New Search Interfaces [ M02,
National Boundaries on the Web [ M01]
Open Source Software [ A00, M03]
OpenURL [ A02]. Flourishing, available as
open source, vital.
Partnerships [ M00]
PDAs/ Portability of Data [ M03].
Policies and Technology [ M04].
Preservation of New Media Formats [ A99].
This one isn’t going away, partly because the
methods still aren’t clear— and new formats
continue to proliferate.
Privacy and Confidentiality [ A99]. “ See also
Customization”— a good note, since the two
are directly related.
Reading Habits ( Scanning vs. Reading)
RFID [ M04].
Search Engines [ A99].
Security [ M02, M03, A03, M04, with the
USA PATRIOT Act noted for the last three].
See also authentication and computer vul-nerabilities.
Self- publishing ( Amateur fiction) [ M02].
Really two different topics. Self- publishing
by community members is certainly some-thing
for public libraries to be aware of—
particularly for nonfiction.
Semantic Web [ A01]. As a grand solution, I
still think it’s pixie dust; as a series of small
initiatives, there may be some meat here.
Shop Floor Management [ M01]
Spam Filters [ A03]. I know this is radical,
but I believe the CAN- SPAM act has made a
Storage and Organization of Mass Data
[ M02, M03]
Submerging Technology [ M99].
Trust Management [ A00]
User Centered Design [ A02, M04]
Web Services [ M03]
Web Usability [ A00]
Wireless [ A01, M03]
One overall comment seems obvious. Just as we said
at the first Midwinter session that you don’t have to
keep up with everything, it should be clear that you
can’t reasonably keep up with all 49 of these topics—
and the ones still to come.
New Possibilities: Reader Suggestions
I’ve never felt much like a library tech trendspotter. I
do have 400+ ( or 3,000+) not- so- secret weapons:
Cites & Insights readers ( or, in this case, the subset
who subscribe to CITES Alerts). I asked CITES
Alerts people for trends they thought were worth not-ing
and got some interesting results— some of which
will play into my comments at Orlando. I’m summa-rizing
the notes they sent me without personal iden-tification.
It’s worth noting that some came from a
librarian at a large Australian university. Thanks to
all who offered suggestions!
“ Blogging is catching on”— including multi-contributor
topical blogs such as STLQ and
Open Access News.
Digital archives may be gaining acceptance
after a years- long struggle to convince fac-ulty
that they matter.
Cites & Insights July 2004 6
DRM affects ( plagues?) libraries— for exam-ple,
making it nearly impossible to circulate
some forms of digital resources.
Ebooks are still developing, but student use
of systems such as netLibrary is increasing at
Metasearch increases online use, but pro-prietary
products are too expensive. In order
for metasearch to flourish, more consistent
Z39.50 implementations and metadata
standards are needed.
Open Access publishing and other change in
scholarly communication, including online
repositories, LOCKSS, etc. The window may
be open for a massive shift.
PDAs have not caught on that widely among
students in Australia, but almost everyone
has a cell phone. At least one university li-brary
is trying out SMS ( short message ser-vice)
technology for services such as holds
RFID is still emerging— in Australia, more in
public libraries than in university libraries.
RSS appears to have growing potential as a
way to deliver documents ( e. g. government
documents). Wisconsin’s Legislative Re-search
Bureau, for example, has a list of
documents feeds; www. rssgov. com has some
information on similar uses.
Students increasingly use web- based library
services and visit the library less often.
Wireless has taken off over recent years.
Of these, only two or three are new, but several rep-resent
worthwhile updates on trends that have ap-peared
Feedback & Followup
Monetizing the Zine
I can’t say I’ve received loads of responses to the
lead essay in C& I 4: 7, but there has been some
feedback. Here’s where things stand as of now:
I received enough positive feedback to set up a Pay-
Pal account. Checking Amazon Honor System, I
found that they’ve lowered their fees to equal Pay-
Pal, so I also signed up for one of those. They’re
both in place, directly accessible from either the
home page ( http:// cites. boisestate. edu) or the About
page ( http:// cites. boisestate. edu/ about. htm)
I invite donations. I will never demand them.
What role will donations play in determining
the future of Cites & Insights? I’m not sure, but I
could suggest a “ 10 & 1” rule, to wit:
If 10% or more of what I believe to be the
readership of Cites & Insights is donating,
more or less annually, at a reasonable aver-age
level, then I would certainly keep it going
as a wholehearted effort. That’s enough to
replace the standing paid writing gig that’s
going away and it might encourage me to not
look hard for a replacement paid assignment,
instead spending more time to make Cites &
Insights as good as possible.
If less than 1% of that readership donates,
that tells me something about how people
value— or, rather, don’t value— Cites & In-sights,
and will probably convince me that it
was a bad idea to accept donations. I won’t
say it would convince me to drop C& I be-cause
that’s not true. It would help define
C& I’s relative importance compared to
other, more remunerative possibilities.
I won’t look at percentages until early fall— which is
also when I finish the last installment in one stand-ing
paid writing arrangement.
One or two people suggested t- shirts or other
tchotchkes; others made fun of the idea. A compari-son
to Unshelved’s t- shirts, while charming, has one
problem: Bill Barnes has artistic talent; I don’t.
The idea that continues to intrigue me is a line
of print- on- demand books. If I’ve calculated the
numbers right, then the dividing lines on such books
look something like this:
For a perfect- bound 8.5x11 complete annual
volume of Cites & Insights, with the same in-dex
I post but with full- color covers and on
book paper, and assuming a price of $ 35 to
$ 40, I could justify the modest work re-quired
to set up the process if I could project
sales of at least 50 to 100 copies for each
volume mounted. There’s more work in-volved
in volumes prior to 2003 ( because of
format changes), so 100 copies is almost a
minimum for it to make sense. Similarly, if I
added value by improving the index ( adding
page ranges, bolding important discussions
of topics and people, fixing the mistakes),
the added work increases.
For thematic 5x8 volumes, running 160 to
250 pages and costing $ 25 to $ 30, there
would be significant extra work—
reformatting the C& I portions ( or columns
and articles from other publications), adding
commentary, preparing the overall book. If I
could project at least 200 copies, a book
would make excellent sense ( the economics
are very different from traditional publish-
Cites & Insights July 2004 7
ing— I wouldn’t be advertising, sending out
review copies, maintaining stock, or offering
a discount to booksellers). If I projected less
than 100 copies, it would be difficult to jus-tify
I obviously need more feedback on these items.
A number of people either mentioned this essay on
their weblogs or sent me mail. Two common themes,
other than wishing me luck:
They’re interested in seeing whether this
works out at all reasonably. My sense is that
there are few success stories in this area.
Some sent me additional examples of appar-ent
fatigue among the new journalists, or
whatever you want to call those who do we-blogs,
zines, lists, and the like.
The Marriage Essay
While I’ve received some feedback on the “ monetiz-ing”
essay, there has been a lot on the marriage es-say—
at least a dozen notes. Most of those notes
were from heterosexuals, most of them married. Sev-eral
of the notes either thanked me or congratulated
me for the courage of the essay ( which I don’t regard
as particularly courageous). Every single one of
them, without exception, supported my stance on
That speaks well for my readership. Thank you.
Correction re BioMed Central
In discussing Open Access ( specifically in Cites &
Insights 4: 7), I credited several statements to Jan Vel-terop,
director and publisher of BioMed Central. He
sent a note to clarify authorship of the statements,
particularly those on the myths of OA publishing:
What you refer to as my statements are in fact a set
of unsigned, because collective, BioMed Central
statements on the myths propounded by some tradi-tional
publishers during and around the UK Parlia-mentary
hearings. Particularly our technical director,
Matt Cockerill, ought to be acknowledged. I may
have drawn attention to them in various [ email list]
contributions, which may be why you attribute the
statements to me. Doesn’t really matter, of course,
but I don’t want to take credit where it isn’t due to
me. I do bear responsibility for the statements of
course, qualitate qua.
The single word change in brackets is to avoid use of
a fiercely protected trademark for one particular
brand of email list software.
Backchat and Other Feedback
I received several comments on this essay, one of
them from Dorothea Salo ( who participated in the
original discussion). She appreciated the discussion;
in some ways, though, her more interesting com-ment
had to do with my notes on LITA. She believes
LITA should pay more attention to its student
members. She’s right, of course: Encouraging LITA
membership within library schools would be good
for the students and for the future of the division.
The ever- thoughtful Daniel Cornwall also appre-ciated
the backchat piece—“ As a frequent presenter
at my state’s conferences, I want people to take their
IRC into the hall and don’t mind people leaving qui-etly”—
but also had noteworthy comments on my
“ Too tired to rip” note, where the quoted person
said he tossed all his CD cases in the trash after pay-ing
a company to rip them all to MP3:
He should have checked with his lawyer first. How
will he prove to the RIAA’s satisfaction that he
bought the music he had ripped? That’s part, but
only part, of the reason I hang onto my CDs ( with
cases)— so that if I’m ever served by RIAA I can
show I own the music. Of course, I don’t share, so I
don’t know why I’d get served. On the other hand,
that hasn’t stopped the RIAA from trying!
I noted in response that I do remove CDs from their
cases when those cases are single- width two- CD
cases ( e. g., Sony’s “ Essentials” series), storing them
instead in the compact multidisc holders that PC
World used to send on renewal and that you can buy
dirt- cheap. That way, I can use the twofer cases for
CD- Rs that I burn. But I won’t get rid of the CDs,
both because it’s unethical to sell the CDs and keep
the music and because “ I might yet want to re- rip at
a higher rate/ using a different codec/ including more
of the original.” And I was appalled ( but not sur-prised)
to see a piece in Wired Magazine offering
brief reviews of three different ripping services, not-ing
that you’d have to pay more than a buck per
CD, but then saying you could get back some of that
by “ flipping the CDs” at a used record store. Keep-ing
and selling simultaneously: That’s a good defini-tion
of unethical behavior in the digital age, and
Wired really should know better.
Nicolas Morin ( one of my French readers) of-fered
another perspective on backchat:
While I mostly agree with your point of view, I
thought there might nevertheless be an interesting
use of IRC during presentations: If it’s not done by
someone in the audience who came to listen to the
presentation, but by someone from the organizing
team. It’s not rude because you know from the start
this person is there to do precisely this, and not di-vide
his or her attention between what you say and
what appears on his/ her laptop: it’s not someone
from the audience.
Then it might allow others, who aren’t present, to
simply benefit from the presentation.
This way, or so it seems to me, it would have less to
do with commentaries, reactions, and disruptions,
and more to do with a wider sharing of the presenta-
Cites & Insights July 2004 8
tion, with occasional feedback from people who fol-low
what you’re talking about on your screen.
I have no problem with that concept. One key is
that the speakers know this will be done.
Finally ( for now), a free copy of kmworld May
2004 arrived recently— including an essay by David
Weinberger, “ The backchannel world.” Weinberger
was clearly part of the same invitational conference
that kicked off the whole controversy.
Here’s the lesson I learned from my disgraceful be-havior
at an excellent conference put on by Micro-soft
Research: Don’t shush me.
That’s the lead paragraph. He goes on to note that
academics at the conference tended to think of pres-entation
as a way to transfer information ( they’d
“ rather be strictly right than interesting”) while oth-ers
“ used showy graphics and were willing to over-state
a point in order to make it” ( they’d “ rather be
interesting than strictly right”). He suggests that an
IRC backchannel was inevitable because Joi Ito was at
He recounts the incident described in mamamus-ings
and the chiding by a host— and the decision to
set up an invitation- only “ back- backchannel.” “ The
first order of business: to be adolescently defiant of
authority. Second: to cuss freely and without point.
Third: to pick on presenters.” But then, he says,
something else was going on— while they were
“ vastly amusing ourselves— albeit in some adolescent
ways” they were also talking “ about how to assimi-late
what the speaker was saying.”
I read the whole essay. It’s worth pointing out
that the conference was about the “ artificial social
networks springing up all over” ( Friendster, Orkut,
etc.). He concludes: “ Put humans together and we’ll
figure out what we’ll do with the connection. The
less you try to tell us about what we ought to be do-ing,
the better and quicker we’ll invent something
new for ourselves. Just be sure not to shush us.”
I don’t know David Weinberger. I have yet to
figure out what Orkut’s good for, other than some
bizarro notion that I could make meaningful contact
with more than 400,000 people because of my 17
“ friends” ( most of whom are casual acquaintances). I
do know that Weinberger’s essay pushed me even
further to the view I held when I started reading the
whole set of comments and feedback, at least as ap-plied
to the kinds of conferences I would tend to
attend or speak at. I won’t bother to repeat that
view; it’s not one that celebrates backchat.
Since I’ve talked about OpenURL several times, it���s
worth mentioning the current status. NISO Z39.88,
which would be OpenURL 1.0 when approved,
completed its balloting round— with 40 Yes votes
( four with comments) and three No votes. The
standards committee is working to resolve the No
votes and respond to the comments.
An Early Thought on Extended Coverage
Think of this as notes toward a later perspective or
essay, here or somewhere else. Recently— over the
past year, primarily— I’ve been doing extended cov-erage
on certain issues, including some key hearings.
Whenever I do such coverage, I’m torn between
trimming it down to a compact summary and run-ning
it as is. Usually, I leave it as is ( if only because
radical trimming is so hard). Whenever I publish
such an essay, I expect it to be ignored— but the es-says
almost always result in positive feedback and
surprising links back to the issue.
I’m beginning to formulate a theory as to why I
do these extended pieces, heavy on quotes from spe-cific
people. Part of it is to build a record, to make
Cites & Insights useful as a source for medium- term
history. Another part is to spare others the charges
of straw men and red herrings that I’ve faced in a
couple of my books and some articles— you know,
like claims that no ebook supporters ever really
claimed that print books were going away or that
nobody really believes that academic libraries ( a)
should be avoided by students and faculty unless
they just like books as physical objects, ( b) are just
ways to transfer research articles from writer to
reader, or… well, you can name others.
In some past cases, I avoided using names and
specific quotes when assailing a viewpoint because I
believed that the writers could and would change
their opinions. I should have known better. I don’t
believe I’ve ever used an “ it’s been said that” or
“ some claim” assertion without having had specific
quotes, at least during my so- called research phase.
So one thing that these extended pieces may do
is to nail down those straw men: They really do walk
on two feet and breathe, and they really did say
those outlandish things.
Trends & Quick Takes
What’s My Tune?
A news feature by Kinley Levack in the April 2004
EContent discusses recommendation engines for mu-sic
from SavageBeast and Siren Systems. These en-gines
supposedly have “ highly advanced methods to
determine what kind of music is similar to whatever
your musical taste du jour may be that are far more
intuitive and intelligent than a traditional text- based
search.” The engines “ analyze hundreds of attributes
of songs in order to best categorize each selection.”
Cites & Insights July 2004 9
SavageBeast looks at some 400 different traits in a
song; Siren Systems looks at “ 700 data points” in
songs. Both systems combine human and machine
“ intelligence” to categorize songs.
Do they work? The example shown for Savage-
Beast, Billy Joel’s “ Piano Man,” offers overall rec-ommendations
and includes a bunch of “ focus
traits” so you can decide what “ more like this” actu-ally
means to you. If I think of that song, I’ll go
along with “ storytelling lyrics,” “ harmonica,” and
maybe “ folk influence”— although I don’t think of
“ Piano Man” in terms of mandolin or accordion, and
for that matter “ piano solo” strikes me as odd. The
songs recommended in the example? Not bad for
“ storytelling lyrics.” Siren Systems’ “ Soundflavor”
has so few songs ( 5,000 or so, compared to a still-small
350,000 for SavageBeast) that it’s hard to
draw any conclusions. I certainly agree that text
matches don’t make sense for “ more like this” music
selection and that genre matches are awfully crude
for individual songs. Where I take issue with the
company spokespeople is when they overgeneralize,
as product advocates typically do: Recommendation
engines as “ the logical next generation of search” and
a claim that makes sense only in a shadow universe
where only one model can win: “ In the long run, a
metadata model combined with collaborative capa-bilities
is the one that will win out.” It’s never that
simple— and if these systems scale and can be pro-vided
cost- effectively, it doesn’t need to be.
Flexible Electronic Displays
“ Nothing beats paper when it comes to displaying
readable text in a comfortable, familiar form factor.
That’s one of the reasons that the ebook market has
yet to take off.” Those are the lead sentences in an
EContent news feature ( April 2004, 10- 12) by Geoff
Daily that discusses progress in the “ not- so- new”
technology of epaper, which— as Daily notes— has
been around for 25 years or so!
The military has put lots of money into R& D
for flexible displays for military use. That may be a
different set of criteria than the supposed “ last
book” or newspaper replacement. The story is weak-ened
a bit by the color photo showing SmartPaper at
work in a signboard: Whether because of resolution
problems or something else, the lettering on the sign
is pathetically ugly and so crude that you have to
double- check to tell an “ n” from an “ m.” If that’s
what Gyricon can do with big letters, they’re a long
way from having acceptable text at normal text sizes.
Rescuing Old Recordings
An interesting news piece at NewScientist. com
( April 20) about a new audio preservation and resto-ration
technique developed at Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory. This technique uses a set of
silicon detectors, originally designed to search for
the Higgs boson, to scan the grooves of a record,
with very high precision. Supposedly, algorithms
used to eliminate noise in particle data recordings
also work well to eliminate scratches and other flaws
in the recording, after which the scan can be
“ played” on a “ virtual record player.”
While the piece discusses vinyl, that’s loose
journalism: It discusses “ more than a million old
vinyl records” in the British National Library Sound
Archive and uses as an example a 1950 Leadbelly
recording. When I read that, I thought, “ Hmm.
More likely to be a shellac 78 than a vinyl 33 or 45.”
Searching for other news stories confirmed that sus-picion:
“ Vinyl” is used in this article, sloppily, as
shorthand for “ physical analog recording.” Most re-cordings
likely to be preserved and restored using
these methods would be shellac, or wax cylinders, or
other pre- vinyl forms.
The idea of playing a record without contacting
its grooves isn’t new; there is an expensive turntable
that uses lasers to read the grooves. But the scanner
should yield much more information than laser read-ing,
and the software techniques for differentiating
scratches from actual recorded information are
probably more sophisticated.
The story included links to two sound files from
that 1950 Leadbelly shellac recording of “ Goodnight
Irene”— one representing the original, the other after
the scan- and- restore process was applied. The differ-ence
is astonishing, reducing heavy surface noise and
scratches to a low level of surface noise with no ap-parent
damage to the recording itself. Good stuff!
So Many Books!
According to Bowker, a staggering 175,000 new
book titles and editions were published in the U. S.
last year— 19% more than the incredibly high figure
for 2002. That includes 17,000 general adult fiction
titles, 16,000 juvenile titles, and 12,000 titles from
university presses. Overall, new titles have increased
by 50% since 1994— and those titles come from a
record 78,000 publishers, nearly 11,000 more than
in 2002. More than 16,000 publishers are in Cali-fornia,
more than twice as many as in New York—
although New York City still has more publishers
than any other city.
That’s the title of an Alex Kosiorek article in Radio
Magazine ( April 1, 2004). Kosiorek, the audio re-cording
and mastering engineer at the Corbett Stu-dio
at WGUC- FM, Cincinnatti, discusses CD- Rs—
Cites & Insights July 2004 10
particularly for audio use, and particularly when you
might want to keep them for a while. CD- R “ re-mains
the most common optical media format used
in audio/ radio production environments”— but with
higher- speed media and drives and ever- cheaper me-dia,
it can be problematic.
He offers some advice that may be useful if
you’re planning to make audio CD- Rs, and particu-larly
if you plan to use them for several years:
Don’t use high- speed media in standalone
audio recorders ( you generally can’t anyway,
since most consumer standalone recorders will
only accept audio- certified CD- Rs). Stay
away from CD- Rs labeled for 48x or higher
speed; 24x and 32x may be OK. The high-speed
formulations may not work properly
at the 1x and 2x speeds of audio recorders.
There’s no specific speed that will assure the
fewest errors and best quality for any given
medium. If you want to play it relatively
safe, stay away from generic and store- brand
CD- Rs, always use disc- at- once mode ( stan-dard
for audio recording) rather than track-at-
once mode, and try burning at roughly
one- third of the drive’s maximum burn speed
( which will never mean more than 16x in
the real world). That will take a few minutes
longer for each disc, but should keep you out
In his tests, Verbatim Data Life did the
best— when burned at 8x or 16x. With Ver-batim
Plus, you know for sure where the
discs are actually made ( Mitsubishi Chemi-cal);
with most name brands, you can’t be
sure. ( Verbatim also uses a different dye
formulation than most other CD- Rs— it’s
obvious when you turn them over, as they’re
teal or bluish- green rather than silvery.)
Keep CD- Rs away from sunlight, heat and
Label discs carefully, with CD- certified pens
( using adhesive labels only for discs you
don’t plan to keep forever).
Joi Ito may be one of the new gods of the internet,
but based on a little Wired item he might want to
learn to ask about prices. Going on a business trip,
he got a new cell phone that allowed him to connect
his notebook to the Internet via GPRS. Internet
everywhere. “ It was sooo cool…” The access rates were
on the company’s website, but I guess it’s like actu-ally
listening to speakers at a conference: The A- list
can’t be bothered. His monthly bill was for
$ 3,516.46— with $ 2,825.28 of that being data
roaming charges. Reading 28MB of blogs in a car
bound for the Zurich airport: $ 422.32. ( 28MB of
blogs? I guess with moblogging and photos, and
when you’re in Ito’s A- list position, that makes a
curious sort of sense.)
Harry McCracken offers an interesting perspec-tive
in his “ Up Front” column in the June 2004 PC
World: “ The more operating systems, the merrier.”
No, he’s not a Linux convert. Instead, he ordered an
Apple PowerBook to complement his two Windows
desktops. “ At the moment using both OSs seems
utterly natural.” He finds himself a “ Mac snob on a
part- time basis” and notes, “ Odds are that the next
computer I buy will be another Windows box, but
I’m glad I realized that the Mac remains a viable
option— even for a mostly Windows guy like me.”
Read the one- page column for more detail. ( Would I
consider a Mac under the right circumstances? I
would and have, but the circumstances have never
been right for me.)
If you’ve disdained email for its virus proclivi-ties,
don’t believe instant messaging is safe. It isn’t.
Viruses and worms increasingly spread via IM,
partly because it’s a “ softer target” in many cases.
Good antivirus programs will catch most IM attacks,
but you need to be as thoughtful about the links and
attachments in IM as you would be in email.
Which Windows is most secure? According to
Russ Cooper of TruSecure ( in a recent presentation
in Australia), newer isn’t necessarily better—
depending on how you measure. He tracked the
number of patched vulnerablities in each Windows
version, analyzing a total of 452 different vulner-abilities
in 298 Microsoft Security bulletins. His
conclusion was that older is better— if all you care
about is the number of vulnerabilities. That’s not all
you should care about, of course, as he makes clear—
and does anyone really want to run NT4.0 on a
brand- new PC?
Ebooks, Etext and PoD
It’s been half a year since the last roundup— and
that’s almost the only reason for this roundup.
Don’t expect startling new developments. Instead,
we have a range of short items in chronological or-der,
some slightly longer pieces, and a couple of
semi- related commentaries. TRENDS & QUICK TAKES
has a related note on commercial flexible displays.
A new way of telling a story?
J. Knight posted “ Everything old is new again: the
digital epistolary novel” at eBookWeb on January 8.
He discusses Intimacies, a new ebook by Eric Brown,
Cites & Insights July 2004 11
and some claims made for this “ new way of telling a
story.” An epistolary novel is one told through let-ters—
Dracula and 84 Charing Cross Road are good
examples. Intimacies tells its story through a series of
emails, an IM transcript, and some online newspa-per
pages— and you read it with special software ( at
www. greatamericannovel. com, if you’re interested).
The software creates frames to simulate email, IM, a
browser, a pager— and you use various links to make
your way through the story.
Knight notes that Brown calls it “ popcorn” and
agrees: It’s lightweight “ even by murder mystery
standards.” He found the “ voyeuristic nature” of
seeming to eavesdrop on email interesting enough to
keep him going until the plot kicked in— and the
whole thing only took an hour to read, even at the
computer ( it’s apparently a very short enovel!).
So why mention it at all? Because fans declare in
a feedback section that such a book could not exist
on the printed page. Knight: “ They’re full of beans.”
The books noted above “ present better stories, and
Dracula draws from more types of epistolary matter
than Intimacies does…” The new attempt is strictly
linear: There’s no real interactivity, according to
Knight. “ Ultimately, what would keep Intimacies
from being published as a print book isn’t the tech-nology
behind it, but the fact that it isn’t really good
enough to warrant print publication.” ( It may not be
long enough either— how many novels can you read
cover- to- cover in an hour?) Knight, a big supporter
of ebooks, goes on to make a broader point:
I’m not sure, really, why people put so much time
and effort into trying to make eBooks something
different and better than print books. The much-ballyhooed
“ interactivity” is a case in point. Engi-neers
keep trying to foist it on us, and we keep run-ning
back to our plain- vanilla television and plain-vanilla
print books because, most of the time, we
want the authors and producers to do the work and
entertain us rather than having to do their job our-selves…
Sometimes innovation smells like desperation. We’re
desperate to create a new form because we’ve failed,
so far, to adequately replicate the old one. No one
has yet succeeded in making eBooks as readable, af-fordable
or easy to use as print books, so they em-ploy
sleight of hand and toss something like
Intimacies into the air, crying out, “ Look at this!
Look at this! ( And never mind that pile of aban-doned
reading devices and rejected formats behind
I still believe in the future of eBooks, but only if
manufacturers and publishers concentrate on the ba-sics:
a large, clear screen; long battery life; affordable
reading devices; low- priced content; reasonable, not
intrusive copy protection.
Maybe this is the best point to discuss something
I’ve had on hand for more than a year: the Journal of
Digital Information 3: 3 ( January 2003). It should be
available from jodi. ecs. soton. ac. uk. It’s a special is-sue
on “ hypertext criticism: writing about hyper-text.”
To make it special, the editors tried to make
the issue itself hypertextual:
We invited submissions consisting of one or more
brief nodes which we would then link together to
create a hypertextual journal issue: an intercon-nected
discussion of a topic rather than discon-nected
The editors “ hope that this issue can serve as a
landmark in the way hypertext criticism is perceived
by authors, theorists and the general public alike.”
They apparently believe the issue is a big success
from which “ the picture becomes clearer than it has
ever been before.” I tried to read the issue more than
a year ago. I gave it several tries over several differ-ent
days. And my conclusion was and is that, if this
makes “ the picture” clearer, then it must have been
wholly obscure before. I was never able to make
sense of the issue except as a set of gimmicks. Of
course, I’m working at a disadvantage. The editor’s
introduction tells us that in the last decade or so,
“ hypertext fiction and electronic literature has de-veloped
immensely.” How many hypertext novels or
short stories or whatever have you read? How many
are you aware of? I read that “ Writers use links con-fidently,
and electronic literature has become wide-spread
on the Web” and I sit bemused.
Part of my problem may be language itself. Here,
unaltered, are the first sentences of the first and fifth
( last) paragraph of Mez Breeze’s node, with the stir-ring
title “ Inappropriate Format ing][: Craft-
Orientation vs. Networked Content[ s]”:
From the point- of- view of this net. art practitioner-plus-
reviewer, it seems evident that various
web/ net/ code artists are more likely to be accepted
into an academic reification circuit/ traditional art
market if they produce works that reflect a tradi-tional
craft- worker positioning.
In relation to Translucidity functioning in terms
of/ as an apparatus/ application, the dominant visual-ity
of the work overloads [ and overcodes] the
weighting of the actual content.
Breeze is from Australia. Maybe that version of Eng-lish
is diverging from American faster than I be-lieved.
Readers who find themselves immersed in
hypertext fiction are welcome to point me to prime
Actually, one “ node” did seem readable and sen-sible—
Julianne Chatelain’s “ Learning from science
fiction criticism: Excessive candour.” She notes that
the early community of English- speaking science
fiction readers and writers “ had an uncanny resem-blance
to the present community of people engaged
in working with and on hypertext fiction. In both
Cites & Insights July 2004 12
Almost everyone who read the stuff also wrote the
Most community members where “ friends” and as
such were unwilling to write anything publicly criti-cal
of other members’ work.
Is that it? I’m unaware of any worthwhile hypertext
fiction because I’m not part of the hypertext com-munity?
D- Lib, February 2004
Bonita Wilson offered a brief editorial on “ Innova-tions
in book production,” coupling an NPR story
on Powis Parker’s on- site book- binding machines
with Anywhere Books, a nonprofit planning to use a
“ digital bookmobile” to produce instant books in
Uganda. Similar efforts are underway in Egypt and
India. Brewster Kahle has demonstrated the capabil-ity.
I wonder about the claim that you can produce
an on- demand book for “ as little as $ 1.00 each”—
given laser printing, I’d expect toner and paper costs
alone to exceed that figure, except for booklets— but
the piece raises an excellent point: Very inexpensive
on- demand print books may make more sense than
ebooks in third- world countries, since the print
books don’t require access to computers and the
internet ( or electricity, for that matter). “ Frequently,
there seems to be a tension between how a new
technology affects the stakeholders from various
communities— in this case, first world and third
world communities. It is refreshing when a techno-logical
breakthrough can be seen as a positive thing
True. I should point out that this whole discus-sion
concerns print- on- demand books, which are
only “ ebooks” when that appellation suits the needs
of advocates. PoD books are books, pure and simple.
Rosetta Bulletin, February 9, 2004
“ Ebooks: Evolution, not revolution, in book publish-ing”
first appeared in Seattle Book Company’s
Rosetta Bulletin e- newsletter and was republished at
eBookWeb. It’s an interesting story, debunking the
“ replacement” theory but still having some ques-tionable
facts. And, unlike some recent ebook sto-ries,
this one admits that many news stories included
lines like “ Ebooks will soon replace print books.” It’s
also a revealing story in an unexpected way: I
learned that Hard Shell Word Factory, an early “ e-only”
publisher since 1996, has started offering
print versions of their more popular titles.
Still, according to Ted Treanor of Seattle Book
Company, “ ebooks have been doing well for some
time.” He sees them as an additional medium, similar
to audiobooks. There’s the usual percentage- only
growth claim: 30% growth of ebook sales in the first
half of 2003 as compared to 2002, as compared to
“ annual growth of only about 5 percent for print
publishing”— and, unfortunately, the usual lack of a
reality check: 30% of $ 2.5 million ( say) is still a
whole lot less than 5% of $ 12 billion ( for half a
year). But it doesn’t look as great when you say
“ ebook sales increased by $ 750,000 in the first half
of 2003 as compared to 2002, while print book sales
increased by a mere $ 600,000,000.” Those may not
be the right numbers, but the magnitude’s right.
Ludwig von Mises Institute, March 22, 2004
Jeffery Tucker edits Mises. org and provides a good
four- page article, “ Books, online and off.” That piece
explains why the Mises Institute has joined a few
other publishers ( e. g., National Academies Press) in
posting its published books online for free.
The point is to expand the market and not assume a
fixed number of consumers. Books online and offline
reinforce the viability of each other, just as movies in
theaters boost movies in rental, and free radio helps
the market for CDs for purchase.
Most recently, the press published a $ 50 1,550- page
hardbound, Man, Economy, and State, with Power and
Market— and simultaneously posted the whole text
of the book in PDF. This is, of course, a highly spe-cialized
nonprofit publisher with a mission to publi-cize
“ Austrian economics,” but it’s not the only case.
Baen Books posts some science fiction works online
to boost the sales of all their books; National Acad-emies
has found their policy to work well; and I’m
guessing that Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture will do
just fine as a print book. I was about to write “ despite
being available online in several permutations,” but I
think “ despite” is the wrong word.
E Ink Corporation, March 24, 2004
A press release from Philips, Sony, and E Ink an-nounced
Sony’s LIBRIé, the “ world’s first consumer
application of an electronic paper display module” in
an ebook reader. Philips makes the display; Sony
puts the reader together and markets it— and will
probably control ebook downloading. E Ink supplies
the electronic ink to Toppan Printing, which makes
it into a film that Philips integrates with circuitry.
The press release touts a “ truly paper- like read-ing
experience.” The device is reflective. Resolution
is 170dpi, giving “ an appearance similar to that of
the most widely read material on the planet—
newspaper.” There’s not even the claim of book qual-ity:
it’s “ near- newspaper” print quality. Supposedly,
four AAA batteries will handle 10,000 pages, since
the display uses power only when an image is
changed. The device will only be available in Japan,
at least initially.
What would such a press release be without one
overenthusiastic statement? Here’s Him Veninger
from Philips: “ The precision of this new high-resolution
electronic ink display technology will
Cites & Insights July 2004 13
revolutionize the way consumers read and access
Michigan Tech, March 31
“ A good read— the way in which an idea is read” by
John Holmlund appeared in Michigan Tech Lode. It’s a
brief piece that considers the potential loss in com-puter-
based books as compared to print books, even
if the display problems are solved. It’s an interesting
little essay, recommended without further comment:
www. mtulode. com/ printarticle. php? ArticleID= 3278.
EContent, April 2004
Safari Books Online seems to be a sensible proposi-tion—
a niche service offering subscriptions for $ 15
or $ 20 a month to get full- text tech books from
O’Reilly, Que, Sams, and other computer book pub-lishers.
The writeup in EContent ( April 2004, p. 12
& 14) makes it sound like a plausible, workable
market: The kind of specialized market that
“ ebooks” serve best. The collection has been set up
so that you can search thousands of books simulta-neously;
within a homogeneous collection such as
computer technology, that’s enormously sensible.
What’s surprising, then, is the reaction of Rich
Levin of Book Tech Magazine: “ It is still very much a
niche market, with an extremely small base, and it is
questionable if it is ever going to achieve critical
mass.” Later, Levin even questions the usefulness of
this sort of service: “ I’m not sure why anyone would
pay to subscribe to this service when the answer to
any question a programmer has can be answered
instantaneously in a user group.” Say what? I’m as
much a skeptic about ebooks as anyone— but put-ting
down a workable niche because you could get
wholly- unverifiable answers from some idiot for free
strikes me as a bit much. “ Critical mass” for Safari
Books doesn’t mean 50% of the print books market
or 0.5% of that market: It means having enough
revenue to exceed costs. Good niches can do that,
and can be valuable for those who need them.
Slate, May 5, 2004
Jack Shafer’s “ Honey, they shrunk the newspaper”
concerns his experience using the electronic versions
of some major print newspapers— etext, if not
ebooks. One common projection among digital-everything
enthusiasts is that your slate reader could
eliminate all those pounds of paper landing on your
driveway. “ I should be raving about how incredibly
cool it is to download the searchable and printable
versions of three of my favorite papers onto my ul-tralight,
wi- fied laptop and tote them around the
house, into the backyard, and onto the subway. So
why are these electronic editions as comfortable as a
fat man trapped in an iron suit designed by a boa
He finds that the editions— which simulate the
print edition—“ induce claustrophobia, even when
displayed on a large flat- panel monitor.” It’s like
“ reading a newspaper through a six- panel colonial
window in which five of the panes have been
blacked out.” He makes an odious comparison to
reading newspapers on microfilm.
To Shafer, print newspapers are easy to explore,
easy to share, “ require no user manual” and never
break when you drop them. “ Nearly 400 years of
thinking have gone into newspaper readability”—
and there are sufficiently consistent norms that, al-though
different papers use different typefaces and
column widths, you can pick up a new paper and
make sense of it immediately.
Shafer exaggerates in claiming that print news-paper
circulation is “ in free fall”— many of the morn-ing
metropolitan papers continue to have growing
circulation— but he nails the impact of the e-subscriptions:
“ More people attend home games of
the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds ( 3,460) than sub-scribe
to the New York Times e- editions ( daily, 3,331;
Sunday, 2,780).” I’m astonished the numbers are
that high. Shafer goes on to suggest ways that big
papers could generate e- editions that would make
sense— delivering something new and better.
Walking Paper, May 17, 2004
“ Once bitten” is the title of this one- page weblog
posting about acquiring new media and technologies
in libraries. “ Have you ever said something that you
wish you could take back? That’s how I think many
libraries feel about the whole eBook fiasco.” The
author goes on to note that ebooks were being
pushed by the producers, not requested by readers.
He contrasts this with books on MP3, where the
library would not need to lend out playing devices
and there does seem to be some user demand. There
are serious digital restrictions management issues
( except for MP3/ CD audiobooks), noted briefly, but
the general point is good: Just because
ebooks/ dedicated readers didn’t make sense doesn’t
mean that libraries should ignore other possibilities.
This brings one big question and one small- but-growing
thought to mind. I’ll drop the question here
and possibly return to it in later issues; I’ll mention
the thought, which could turn into a full- fledged
essay or article.
Question: Why haven’t we heard about the re-sults
of those grant- funded ebook- appliance experi-ments?
They got a lot of publicity when libraries
were buying hundreds ( thousands?) of REB devices,
propping up the failing company. What were the
actual results? Where are all those readers now? Did
their use ever justify the purchase costs— and could
that grant money have seen better use? I’m guessing
Cites & Insights July 2004 14
we would have widely- publicized stories about big
successes with these dedicated devices. Were the
failures simply covered over as libraries rushed to try
Thought: In the case of ebooks ( and particu-larly
dedicated ebook appliances), libraries were
“ getting out ahead” of patrons— demonstrably, since
the number of consumers who purchased ebook
readers for their own use is so small that nobody’s
ever offered an estimate. My guess is that it’s almost
always a bad idea for public libraries to try to be
ahead of their users in adopting new media, particu-larly
new circulating media. Instead, I believe, it
makes sense to be a little behind: Ready at the point
where a new medium serves more than the most
privileged set of “ haves” in the community. But
that’s still rough thinking, and far be it from me to
criticize library actions. More later, maybe.
Open eBook Forum, June 3, 2004
“ Record eBook retail sales set in Q1 2004; Dan
Brown��s The DaVinci Code tops bestselling Ebooks
That’s the head on a press release issued during
Book Expo America. For a change, there are dollar
numbers behind the usual percentage increases. First
quarter 2004 saw 46% increase in units over
2003Q1, but 28% revenue increase— in other words,
average prices continue to drop ( the first- half 2003
unit increase was 40%, revenue 30%). What do
those huge increases amount to? 421,955 “ eBooks”
sold, with $ 3.233 million in revenues— still consid-erably
less than one- tenth of one percent of print
One enormous unanswered question: do those
“ eBook” figures include PoD print books?
Dorner, Jane, “ Literature of the Book— e-books,”
Logos 14: 3, republished on eBook-
Web in two parts.
“ E- publishing is still a self- defining medium, so
choosing the literature of the e- book is a daunting
task.” Dorner explicitly excludes e- journals, “ a dif-ferent
matter altogether.” She admits that it’s way
too soon for a balanced assessment of the field; “ my
list will just be an historic snapshot of roughly where
we are now.”
Then we get the hype: “ The consultancy firm,
Accenture, has predicted that by 2005, e- books will
make up 10 percent of all book sales.” That such a
prediction could appear in 2003 is nothing short of
astounding and would require a bizarre redefinition
of “ books”— or, I suppose, an increase in ebook sales
of roughly 10,000% over the next two years!
Hype aside, this is an interesting treatment.
Here’s what Dorner has to say about linear narra-tive,
what books do best: “ Unfortunately, e- books do
not cope well with language in continuous text.”
But, she says, e- publishing is just a child, “ barely 30
Did Alan Kay actually use Apple’s Newton as
the basis for his Dynabook? That’s not the way I
remember it, but it’s been a long time. Dorner says,
“ Interactive fiction has… burgeoned— but it does not
sell.” “ Burgeoned is one of those interesting terms,
particularly for something nobody buys.
The second half is a list of books— all print
books ( and one article)— and a handful of “ online e-ssays”
and “ online e- zines about e- books.” It’s a cu-rious
list and perhaps more interesting for that.
Dorner comments on a book about digital type that
paper, ink, typography, and print techniques “ is re-placed
now by screen resolution, e- ink, and e- paper.”
“ Is replaced” seems a bit excessive with ebooks at
less than 0.1% of the print book market, but that’s
Dorner doesn’t agree with Lawrence Lessig’s
view of copyright or the idea that Disney and its ilk
are manipulating the law for their own purposes.
She notes that Janet Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck
may be overrated and has “ some cranky ideas” ( I
couldn’t agree more). She states that Being Digital is
an “ accessible and stimulating look at the digital
lifestyle of the future, and the way in which it will
merge audio and visual experiences.” After all, Ne-groponte
couldn’t possibly be wrong…
All in all, worth reading.
Doctorow, Cory, “ Ebooks: Neither e, nor
books,” February 12, 2004.
This is a text version of a talk Doctorow gave at
the 2004 O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.
It’s worth noting that Doctorow is both a science
fiction writer ( who’s successful experimented with
“ giving away” his books online simultaneously with
print publication) and an EFF person. This speech
carries a Creative Commons “ no rights reserved”
license, so I could legally reprint the entire thing, sell
it for profit, use it as the basis for a best- selling
novel, or whatever. The 14- page piece is a fascinat-ing
read, whether you agree with Doctorow or not—
and I frequently don’t. Here’s his set of eight ideas
about ebooks and books, which in expanded form
are the first half of the paper:
Ebooks aren’t marketing. Well, they are
( that is, they can be used to market print
books) but they shouldn’t just be marketing.
And here’s an odd one: “ In the final analy-sis,
more people will read more words off
more screens and fewer words off fewer
Cites & Insights July 2004 15
pages”— although the latter assertion has
zero real- world evidence to back it up. ( That
sentence continues; in fact, Doctorow appar-ently
believes that ebooks are the inevitable
future of books: “ ebooks are gonna have to
be the way that writers earn their keep.”)
Ebooks complement paper books. “ For
now,” apparently, given his preceding sen-tences.
Unless you own the ebook, you don’t
0wn the book.” Clearly, I’m not part of the
digerati, since I haven’t the vaguest idea
what “ 0wn” means. There’s a lot more here,
including a repeat of Kahle’s claim that you
can produce a “ four- color, full- bleed, perfect-bound,
laminated- cover, printed- spine paper
book in ten minutes, for about a dollar.”
Which I flat- out don’t believe unless “ book”
Ebooks are a better deal for writers. Be-cause,
in science fiction, word rates are mea-sly,
so “ the primary incentive for writing has
to be artistic satisfaction, egoboo, and a de-sire
for posterity. Ebooks get you that.” Sure
Ebooks need to embrace their nature—
which revolves around the “ mix- ability and
send- ability of electronic texts.” On the
value axes of a paper book, “ ebooks fail.”
That is, they can’t beat ( or match) print
books for typography and the like.
Ebooks demand a different attention
span ( but not a shorter one). Sorry, but I
read his whole spiel three times, and I’ll be
damned if I can understand what he’s say-ing.
We need all the ebooks. Again I’m not sure
just what he’s saying, although he does talk
about a “ proper ebook revolution.”
Ebooks are like paper books. That leads
off a long section that compares ebooks to
paper books, and you’d have to read it.
Doctorow is one of those who thinks “ scary hax0r
kids” is a meaningful phrase, and maybe it is to his
audience. He says as a certainty that “ fewer people
are reading fewer words off fewer pages every day,”
which is almost certainly false, while at the same
time admitting that “ screen resolutions are too low
to effectively replace paper.” He has the usual sneer-ing
reason that we buy physical books—“ because of
their visceral appeal.” What about because they work?
Am I recommending this piece? I think so. With
considerable reservations. Or maybe reservati0ns, if
I knew the difference.
Two from VALA
I believe both of these PDFs came from the 2004
VALA conference ( Victorian Association for Library
Automation), the latest in a series of strong biennial
Australian conferences. They should not be difficult
to find on the web. Both are worth reading, even if
I’m poking a bit at some of the content. I’m not of-fering
adequate summaries in either case.
Wendy Abbott and Kate Kelly, both at Bond
University Library, write “ Sooner or later!— Have e-books
turned the page?” Here’s another paper that
acknowledges that my straw men really did walk on
two feet, noting “ decades of premature ‘ death- of- the-book’
prophecies” and a specific 1979 assertion from
computer scientist Chris Evans: “ The 1980s will see
the book… begin a steady slide into oblivion.” De-spite
all that, the authors say, “ In all probability, the
e- book is here to stay and set to eventually take its
place alongside its more traditional antecedents.”
[ Emphasis added.] The paper discusses market
forces and ebook experiments at Bond. There’s a bit
of easy futurism in that discussion—“ The eventual
convergence of mobile phones, PDAs, laptops, note-books
and wireless communications will produce
small mobile devices with unparalleled portability,
computing power and connectivity. As mobile de-vices
become ubiquitous in everyday life…” Conver-gence:
Never mind. The Bond case study chose an easy
target: The School of Information Technology, with
students who are “ erratic library users” and with IT
books well suited to ebook use. I’d expect that
ebooks would work better in such a setting than al-most
anywhere else. Bond signed up for a 2- user li-cense
for Books24x7— but that didn’t work out
because the vendor had absurd tracking require-ments.
Back to the drawing boards, or, rather, to Sa-fari
Books, first in a trial period, then with all of 90
titles from Safari’s 3,000- title ( or 1,500- title) list,
again with a two- user license. Those 90 books cost
about as much as Books24x7’ s 3,000 books would
have cost. How well were those books used— by IT
students, note, with the 90 books selected on the
basis of usage? “ During the first two months that
the 90 Safari Books titles have been available,
approximately 40% of the books have been
accessed.” In other words, students have looked at 36
books at least once. That’s hardly a massive success
story, but these are early days! Comments about
what students liked and disliked about the books
follow. Then there’s one of those tricky numbers-versus-
percentage comparisons: 66.4% of the print
collection ( size unknown) was circulated in the first
two years of availability, while 40% of the ebook
titles were accessed in the first two months. Maybe
Cites & Insights July 2004 16
cessed in the first two months. Maybe that shows
ebooks as being “ more popular,” but maybe not.
Paul Mercieca of RMIT University titled his pa-per
“ E- book acceptance: what will make users read
on screen?” The abstract notes “ the reluctance to
read large textual titles on current screen technol-ogy.”
My question: Why should the library or uni-versity
make users read on screen?
Why wouldn’t they? He notes the studies show-ing
that on- screen reading is 25% to 40% slower
than print reading and that we tend to skim on the
screen. He notes that students are reluctant to use
electronic textbooks— but would consider using
them in the library “ primarily if there was no alter-native
printed texts.” When asked, students found
that screen reading from PDF images caused eye
strain. Even those who found on- screen reading rela-tively
easy said they were reading on screen “ because
they had to.” The study goes on to suggest en-hancements
that might seduce students into screen
reading: additional material, animations of key con-cepts,
inclusion of other media. We’re also told that
libraries may be important in “ developing accep-tance”
of electronic textbooks.
I repeat: Why should students be forced to read
on screen? What higher societal purpose is served by
forcing them to use a medium they clearly dislike for
long textual reading? I see no answers in this paper.
The Library Stuff
Farrelly, Michael, “ The culture wars,”
Bookslut ( May 5, 2004). www. bookslut. com
What? You don’t know about Bookslut? Take a
look. It’s mostly book reviews with a mix of col-umns,
well written with loads of attitude. There’s
also a related weblog by the editor. Farrelly does the
Library Rakehell column. This one’s a doozy:
I woke up one morning not too long ago and real-ized
that in the “ culture war” being waged by con-servatives
I am nothing short of a terrorist insurgent.
I am not armed with rocket- propelled grenades,
chemical weapons or even a vaunted dirty bomb.
Rather my library science degree, framed and hang-ing
on a wall in the back room of my mother’s
house, is the weapon of mass destruction they fear
This isn’t an attack on conservatives. It is an attack
on neocons, the movement that “ runs on ignorance
and snap judgments.” Think Rush Limbaugh, Mi-chael
Savage, Ann Coulter— those who “ make their
bread and butter filling the airwaves with half-truths,
presumptions and sketchy information.”
They’re not true conservatives: They don’t really be-lieve
in smaller federal government ( as long as Re-publicans
are in charge).
This is the group that detests ALA for saying it’s
up to parents to decide what their children read and
view— that it is not the role of the library to dumb
down everything else so parents can use it as a free
child- care center. A true conservative might think
that government should generally not act in loco par-entis—
but, as Farrelly reminds us, these people are
not real conservatives. ( A true conservative might
hold firmly to the First Amendment as well!)
One columnist has come up with this nonsense
after grumping about librarians letting down their
hair—“ usually wrapped in a tight bun, of course”—
to criticize the USA PATRIOT act: “ Librarians now
constitute one of the country’s main centers of
thoughtless and unreconstructed leftism. It is the
sort of ideology that you expect to find among naïve
college students and destitute Latin American peas-ants.
But librarians?” Well, yes— not because librari-ans
are “ thoughtless and unreconstructed” lefties
( whatever that might mean), but because you can
read and pay attention to what the laws actually say.
There’s more, in a bold and— in my opinion—
generally correct column. As Farrelly notes, “ no li-brarian
in their right mind would allow a child to
view pornography”— and that has nothing to do with
approving censorware that blocks out huge swaths of
constitutionally protected material for all patrons.
There is a bitter twist in all this librarian hatred. Li-brarians
are all for freedom of expression no matter
what is being said. A good library has Bill O’Reilly’s
latest screed in its collection along with Al Franken’s
histrionics. Michael Moore’s bombast should be as
readily available as any Nazi propaganda film. There
is an equality of ideas, good and bad, within a li-brary.
Librarians don’t agree with everything on
Anyone who hates a librarian simply for their pro-fession
should be immediately suspect no matter
their political orientation. Opposition to libraries is
opposition to an informed populace.
Fernandez, Joe, “ Facing live reference,”
Online 28: 3 ( May/ June 2004): 37- 40.
This is an interesting commentary on the grow-ing
phenomenon of computer- mediated real- time
reference service. You might know it as “ ask a librar-ian”
or “ virtual reference.” I’m including this article
partly because I’m astonished by the name Fernan-dez
chooses for the article, one that’s apparently
common in Australia: Live reference. I always as-sumed
live reference was what happened at the ref-erence
desk, but Fernandez labels that “ face- to- face
( FtF) communication.” I guess. We learn that “ LR is
now considered an essential part of many virtual
Cites & Insights July 2004 17
libraries.” I wasn’t aware that there were so many
It’s a good article, but at least one sentence
struck me as sufficiently unusual to deserve direct
quotation: “ In this dyadic, synchronous, and task-oriented
form of computer- mediated communication
( CMC), theories and concepts from the field of
pragmatics are taken to a completely new dimen-sion.”
I’m sure they are.
Morgan, Eric Lease, “ SRW and SRU in five
hundred words or less,” D- Lib 10: 5 ( May
This brief discussion introduces Search and Re-trieve
Web Service ( SRW) and Search and Retrieve
URL Service ( SRU), two protocols viewed as the
“ next generation Z39.50” for querying databases
and returning search results. Both protocols are sim-pler
than Z39.50 ( with three operations— explain,
scan, and searchRetrieve) and designed as web ser-vices;
SRW uses SOAP while SRU uses URLs. Both
use Common Query Language ( CQL), presumably
defined as part of the overall specification. This in-troduction
just gets you started; it does include the
URL for the NISO documents: www. loc. gov/ z3950/
agency/ zing/ srw/
Five from RLG DigiNews
Start at www. rlg. org and go from there.
Bausenbach, Ardie, “ Character sets and
character encoding: A brief introduction,”
RLG DigiNews 8: 2 ( April 15, 2004).
Here’s a good, brief, understandable introduc-tion
to Unicode— why it’s needed, how it works and
how it relates to XML and MARC21. It won’t tell
you everything you need to know, but it will get you
Deegan, Marilyn, and Harold Short, Dawn
Archer, Paul Baker, Tony McEnery, and Paul
Rayson, “ Computational linguistics meets
metadata, or the automatic extraction of
key words from full text content,” RLG
DigiNews 8: 2 ( April 15, 2004).
Six authors for a six- page article: Sometimes
that’s how cutting- edge research gets reported. This
article reports on a Mellon- funded pilot project to
see whether meaningful keywords could be extracted
algorithmically from masses of OCR- converted
scanned full text. The project used the Forced Mi-gration
Online content— 80,000 pages of full text
from the grey literature and journals on human dis-placement
( refugees, diasporas, etc.). I won’t at-tempt
a detailed summary; the conclusions are
positive— some degree of automatic extraction does
appear to be workable in situations such as these.
Hedstrom, Margaret, “ Research agendas set
course for digital archiving and long- term
preservation,” RLG DigiNews 7: 6 ( Decem-ber
This brief article discusses two reports that pro-pose
complementary research agendas for digital
archiving and long- term preservation. Both reports—
linked from RLG DigiNews, which doesn’t include
the URLs in the clear text—“ stress the growing cen-trality
of digital information in government, com-merce,
research and education, cultural heritage, and
even interpersonal communications” and the inade-quacy
of current preservations strategies. I note this
article to remind those interested in true digital
preservation that the problems aren’t even close to
being solved; these reports reflect some of the efforts
to find solutions.
LeFurgy, William G., “ PDF/ A: Developing a
file format for long- term preservation,”
RLG DigiNews 7: 6 ( December 15, 2003).
PDF has enormous advantages for text- based
digital documents. It maintains a faithful image of
the intended layout, in part by embedding typefaces
as needed. It’s easy to generate. It can include good
navigation tools and allows some level of searching.
The disadvantages— other than not being pure text
open to pure- text manipulation— relate mostly to its
status as Adobe’s proprietary format.
This article discusses a preservation standard
based on PDF— PDF/ A. As specified in a draft ISO
standard, PDF/ A doesn’t allow inclusion of audio
or encryption, and requires that all fonts must be
embedded ( and legally embeddable) and that color-spaces
be specified in a device- independent manner.
The standard, if adopted, will presumably also make
PDF/ A an effectively open format, not a proprietary
format. Important work to make preservation of
formatted digital publications practical; clearly ex-plained
and worth following.
Steenbakkers, Johan F., “ Treasuring the
digital records of science: Archiving e-journals
at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek,”
RLG DigiNews 8: 2 ( April 15, 2004).
The KB is the national and depository library of
the Netherlands; it’s also one of the first to attempt
to serve as a true digital archive for e- journals. In
this case, you need to put location and corporation
together: Elsevier Science is a Dutch operation, and
Cites & Insights July 2004 18
Elsevier now has a formal archiving agreement with
the KB. National libraries are almost certainly the
best candidates among existing institutions to serve
as trusted digital repositories. While such reposito-ries
might be “ dark archives” at present, the formal
agreements mean that they would become accessible
resources at any point that Elsevier or a successor
was no longer able to provide access to articles.
This article describes the KB’s “ e- Depot” and
some of the long- term implications for digital pres-ervation.
This is important stuff; the article bears
Interesting & Peculiar Products
What else can I say about Toshiba’s $ 600 RD- XS32
combination PVR and DVD burner? It comes with
an 80GB hard disk and VCR Plus+, and it writes to
DVD- R, DVD- RW or DVD- RAM ( but not
DVD+ R/ RW). Here’s what’s amazing, according to
the blurb in Sound & Vision 69: 3: “ Transferring
shows from the hard disk to DVD is fast work— 24x
speed for DVD- R/ RW and 12x for DVD- RAM.”
Given that the fastest media for DVD- R/ RW sup-port
8x recording, that’s nothing short of amazing.
( On reflection, it is possible— if you’re recording
shows at the lowest quality, worse than VHS.)
Escient FireBall DVDM- 100
In Cites & Insights 4: 6, I grumbled about a “ movie
server” that could serve up to 160 DVD images
from hard disk, for a mere $ 27,000 ( roughly nine
times as much as the DVDs cost). The April 2004
Sound & Vision offers a slightly less snazzy device for
considerably less than one- tenth the price— but this
time, the reviewer says it’s “ expensive for features
Maybe so. What the FireBall does is pass
through information from other devices. More spe-cifically,
you can connect up to three DVD/ CD
megachangers ( e. g., Sony makes units that hold 400
DVDs/ CDs) and the FireBall will catalog all of the
disks ( via a needed internet connection). Since Ken
Pohlmann ( the reviewer) is a fanboy for digital con-vergence,
he loves the idea— but admits that $ 1,999
may be a little much. Maybe not: If you actually
have 1,200 DVDs and store them all in monster
changers, I suspect a device like this makes sense.
I think this one’s interesting, if not particularly revo-lutionary.
Today’s computer stores don’t have
enough shelf space for any but the biggest programs
and games. This kiosk can stock some 1,500 soft-ware
titles from 240 publishers. You look over what
you want, decide on a package, and make the pur-chase
decision. The machine gives you an order re-ceipt;
you take that to a sales clerk, who produces a
CD- R and gives you a packaged CD with the ven-dor’s
custom label and printed case. For packages
too hefty for reasonable downloads and too obscure
to garner shelf space, this could make sense. It’s be-ing
test- marketed in a couple dozen CompUSA
stores, and should be in all of them by this fall. ( In-formation
from PC World 22: 5)
Digital Music Players Today
PC Magazine 23: 8 ( May 4, 2004) has a good
roundup, “ Play as you go,” covering nine flash
memory players and three current hard- drive mini-players.
Top honors among the flash players— some
of which, I believe, can be used equally well as “ key-chain
drives” for general- purpose file storage— is the
$ 160 iRiver iFP- 390T, a ruvey little device that can
rip MP3s directly from your stereo, has a built- in
microphone, and includes an FM tuner. It’s appro-priately
tiny ( 3.5x1.5x1.0", 2.1oz) and has 256MB
capacity— but it doesn’t show up as a drive when you
plug it in, so it’s not a general- purpose storage de-vice.
They got just over 13 hours of playback on a
single AA nickel- hydride battery. The three hard-drive
units are all smaller, lower- capacity devices
than the 15GB- and- up units, but the result is pretty
much the same: Editors’ Choice goes to Apple���s
$ 249 iPod Mini. It seems like an expensive unit
given its 4GB capacity as compared to the $ 299
15GB iPod, but it’s cute and small: 3.6x2.0x0.5",
3.4oz. On the other hand, using iTunes to rip CDs
stinks when compared to MusicMatch ( much slower
and you have to play the CD), and you’ll get around
7 hours of battery life.
Double- Layer Recordable DVD
Sony is on the verge of releasing two DVD+ R DL
drives, a $ 230 internal and $ 330 external. These
drives can record to new dual- layer DVD+ Rs
blanks— which, like dual- layer pressed DVDs, offer a
bit less than twice the capacity of a single- layer disc.
The little PC Magazine story claims “ 4 hours of
MPEG- 2 video or 2,000 songs” and ends with this
sentence: “ And the fact that two feature- length mov-ies
will fit on one disc could draw the interest of pi-rates
and the ire of entertainment companies.”
Except that most Hollywood DVDs these days al-ready
use two layers for a single movie— and true
pirates either have access to DVD pressing facilities
or are perfectly willing to overcompress movies to
get more on a disc. What the dual- layer DVD+ R
Cites & Insights July 2004 19
could mean for movies, if 321 Studios is able to find
a legal way to sell its backup software, is that you
could make a personal backup copy of a typical Hol-lywood
movie without losing special features. But
that’s a very big if.
The Good Stuff
Manes, Stephen, “ The ultimate personal
technology: Paper,” PC World 22: 5 ( May
This is a cute column about the advantages of
paper, even ( or particularly) for full- time technology
freaks. He discusses archival issues, the virtues of
paper datebooks in lieu of PDAs, and how much bet-ter
he thinks the print version of PC World looks and
works than the Web- based equivalent. ( I’m aston-ished
at a hatchet- job review Manes wrote on Law-rence
Lessig’s new book, but that’s a different
matter. Read this column instead.)
Miller, Ron, “ Can RSS relieve information
overload?” EContent 27: 3 ( March 2004):
In some ways, this is an unusual introduction to
RSS, since it focuses on “ enterprise employees,” the
corporate market. Along with a brief introduction,
Miller offers a few examples of corporate RSS use,
along with a sidebar on the Librarian’s Index to the
Internet and LII’s use of RSS.
As usual, some RSS folk slightly overstate the
case against other delivery media, with Chris Pirillo
of Lockergnome declaring, “ Email is dead.” The arti-cle
also misses the possibility that the frequent har-vesting
done by RSS tools may be a problem for
weblogs and other sites, but that’s hardly surprising:
That issue’s just beginning to gain visibility. All in
all, a good treatment that provides a corporate bal-ance
to the usual personal view of RSS.
Miller, Ron, “ Get the picture,” EContent
27: 4 ( April 2004): 30- 5.
Here’s an article about graphical approaches to
Web search results. Yawn. Not so fast: Miller takes a
balanced view, offering some interesting examples of
possibilities while recognizing the difficulties of
graphical result interfaces, even for people who are
graphically inclined. “ Visual searching” certainly has
a place. The questions are what that place really is
and whether visual searching should replace textual
Greg Notess “ doesn’t see visual search tools
making a significant impact on generalized search”
and sees some movement away from graphics and
toward pure text. Danny Sullivan tends to agree:
“ Just because it looks cool doesn’t mean it’s useful.”
Given the overenthusiastic pronouncements of vis-ual-
search suppliers, this may seem awfully negative,
but I’m not sure that’s true. You could suggest that
Notess and Sullivan are, like me, text- oriented— or
you could consider that visual search may be most
useful in specialized areas. It sounds as though some
software suppliers are recognizing that possibility.
Tim Bray Antarctica Systems ( apparently they’ve
dropped the strange punctuation) admits that “ gen-eralized
Web search is a very tough row to hoe”—
but enterprise searching and other specialized areas
may be reasonable targets. Worth reading.
Stone, M. David, “ Personal printers,” PC
Magazine 23: 9 ( May 23, 2004): 114- 22.
This “ essential buying guide” offers good advice
on buying a printer— and deciding what kind of
printer to buy. You know the usual rules: If you print
a lot of text and long- term costs matter, buy a laser
printer; if you need the best possible photo quality,
buy a “ photo printer.” The discussion of multifunc-tion
printers is useful, particularly in its suggestion
that you not pay too much attention to claims for
scanner resolution and color depth or ( as with all
inkjets) to speed claims. In practice, the claims may
be misleading but it doesn’t much matter: Most user
needs are satisfied with 300dpi to 600dpi scanning
and 24- bit resolution, and almost all of today’s units
exceed both those minima.
Tenner, Edward, “ Rebound,” Boston Globe,
April 25, 2004.
Here’s the subhead: “ A decade ago, seers pre-dicted
that technology would bury the printed word.
So why are there more books than ever?” Tenner
notes that many “ would- be replacements of books”
have vanished— while print persists, with a 36% in-crease
in book sales since 1997. He notes early pre-dictions
of the death of print ( 1895) and Nicholas
Negroponte’s confident 1996 projection that epaper
would be ready “ during the next couple of years.” So
what’s happened to the book? According to Gabriel
Zaid, the number of book titles published each year
has quadrupled in the fifty years since TV was in-troduced—
from an astonishing quarter- million titles
to an even more astonishing million titles. Zaid sees
the real problem as a flood of books: “ If a person
reads a book a day, he would be neglecting to read
4,000 others, published the same day.”
Tenner offers three major paradoxes that help to
explain the robust state of print book publishing:
Books have multiplied partly because “ they
have become less and less important as in-
Cites & Insights July 2004 20
formation storage technologies.” We depend
on them less ( most data never winds up in
book form), which leads to broader variety
for the purposes books do serve well.
Electronic media “ often were less efficient
than they appeared.” CD- ROM is offered as
a prime example.
“ Books survive because technology has made
it much easier to write and publish them.”
Desktop composition ( called “ desktop pub-lishing”)
and print- on- demand publishing
makes it easy for a tiny publisher to com-pete;
that helps to explain the 70,000 pub-lishers
in the U. S., up from 21,000 in 1986.
How far could this grow? Tenner cites a sur-vey
showing that 81% of Americans would
like to write a book. ( The attack of the PoD
Tenner does see “ less zest for reading among today’s
college students”— but also notes that even in the
so- called “ golden age of print culture” ( which he
puts at the 1880s to 1930s), the literati were ap-palled
by the trashy preferences of the masses— and
it’s certainly true that more people read more books
now than at any time in the past.
A good piece that ends nicely: “ Coping with the
problems of the new book market will take creative
thinking from publishers, librarians, authors, and
readers. But it’s clear by now that the book needs
not last rites but fresh air and exercise.”
I do have to tweak Tenner a bit for one sentence,
though— after noting that Poetry Magazine, with
11,000 subscribers, receives 90,000 submissions a
year. “ And how many aspiring novelists buy and read
serious fiction?” My immediate response: Who de-fines
Wolf, Gary, “ The return of push!,” Wired
12.05 ( May 2004): 31- 4.
It is with pleasure that I’ll soon return to not
reading Wired itself on a monthly basis— while the
“ just try and read this!” layouts are long gone, the
attitude continues to be annoying. Since I haven’t
been a steady reader, maybe I’m wrong, but my
guess is that the pundits at Wired almost never actu-ally
admit to being wrong. ( Did they ever back down
from the “ long boom” and “ Dow 30K” predictions?)
In this story, Gary Wolf almost backs down. He co-authored
a cover story about PointCast and other
push technology, arguing that Web browsers were
about to become obsolete.
I experienced the PointCast wonderfulness for
just as long as I needed to judge the monstrosity for
a competition and remove the device and its soft-ware
from my PC. That was way too long. Wolf does
note that the story wasn’t quite on the money:
Browsers did not disappear. Instead, they became
the world’s standard interface for electronic informa-tion.
PointCast, after spurning a buyout offer of
more than $ 350 million from Rupert Murdoch’s
News Corp, went on to spectacular failure. Users ig-nored
it, system administrators banned it, and the
market punished it. Before long, push was a byword
But wait! Push is back, this time as RSS. I’ll agree
that there’s a “ clear parallel between the excitement
of the PointCast days and the enthusiasm for RSS
today,” and wonder why Wolf doesn’t recognize hy-perbole
this time around. Instead, the subtitle of the
story is “ Kiss your browser good- bye, again,” and
seems to be claiming that RSS is push.
But it isn’t— and, with Bloglines and other
browser- based aggregators being recognized as effec-tive
ways to handle RSS and avoid bogging down
the internet with millions of RSS polling visits, RSS
most surely doesn’t threaten the browser. ( Yes, I use
Bloglines. No, I have no intention of becoming an
“ RSS bigot” and find the whole “ do it my way or I’ll
ignore you” concept sad and self- defeating. I guess
the privileged Boomer generation has passed on
their aura of entitlement to their children, with a
So does this item belong in THE GOOD STUFF?
Not really, but I’ve retired CHEAP SHOTS. And, I
must say, while Wolf now claims that the earlier
story was “ weirdly prescient,” he also admits that it
was “ terribly incorrect.” He’s half right.
Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 4, Num-ber
9, Whole Issue 52, ISSN 1534- 0937, is written
and produced by Walt Crawford, a senior analyst at
RLG. Opinions herein do not reflect those of RLG.
Comments should be sent to wcc@ notes. rlg. org.
Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large is copyright ©
2004 by Walt Crawford: Some rights reserved.
Donations to support Cites & Insights are ac-cepted
at http:// cites. boisestate. edu.
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