Archive for the 'books' Category

not just challenged, but actual banned books – a web resource

This site deals with book censorship attempts which actually resulted in some action, even if it was later reversed.

Freedom of speech is for everyone, and includes the freedom to say “I don’t think this belongs in the library,” just as it also includes the freedom to say “sorry, but the library is for everyone in the community, including people who find this book useful” or “I can understand that you wouldn’t want your child reading books on that subject, and I can respect your opinion, but some parents do want their children reading books on that subject.”

2011 reading list, a year end summary

Books
Image is by shutterhacks

I did a lot of reading-while-traveling this year. I got a lot of travel books from random library booksales. I’ve still been reading in paper-book form, as much as I see the compelling argument for ebook readers, I haven’t made the switch. Here are previous year end lists: 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. My booklist lives over on jessamyn.info/booklist and it has its own RSS feed. Here’s the wrap-up of what I read in 2011.

number of books read in 2011: 56
number of books read in 2010: 48
number of books read in 2009: 39
number of books read in 2008: 31
number of books read in 2007: 53
number of books read in 2006: 60
number of books read in 2005: 86
number of books read in 2004: 103
number of books read in 2003: 75
number of books read in 2002: 91
number of books read in 2001: 78

average read per month: 4.67
average read per week: 1.01
number read in worst month: 2 (Feb/April/Dec)
number read in best month: 10 (July)
percentage by male authors: 72
percentage by female authors: 28
fiction as percentage of total: 54
non-fiction as percentage of total: 46
percentage of total liked: 92
percentage of total ambivalent: 5
percentage of total disliked: 2

I read a lot of books by a few authors that I found and liked the year including Tana French, Geraldine Brooks and Connie Willis. Still not really on the ebook bandwagon. Still enjoying reading paper books in bed. Still finishing a few books I started in 2011, I expect this trend to continue. Wish me luck, and happy reading in 2011! Feel free to link to your own reading lists in the comments.

Pirating for Dummies – torrenting easy-ish to block, but does it solve any real problem?

I think one of the many many things that is exacerbated by the digital divide is the gap in understanding about digital content. That is, the difference between what digital content is innately, what it becomes when it becomes a transactional item (i.e. with checkoutability), and what aspects of both of these “states of being” are created by whom.

So, it’s one thing to say “We have ebooks!” and quite another to represent the “ecosystem” of ebooks (to quote a recent talk I heard from a representative of the American Publishers’ Association) as being analogous to the one that paper books inhabit. This is just a long lead-up to linking to this article about bittorenting and using it to access copyrighted works and what you might find there. The author, Jeff Duntemann, is a friend of a friend and wrote a piece looking at which Dummies books are actually available on The Pirate Bay in the light of Wiley filing a copyright lawsuit against people pirating their books using Bittorent. For people familiar with the world of underground ebooking, this will be nothing new. For people who aren’t quite sure exactly how people get and/or redistribute digital content, this post should be helpful for you. Duntemann notes that the bulk of ebook swapping likely isn’t even taking place on big public torrent tracking sites like The Pirate Bay because ebook files are smaller and can be distributed in any number of different ways. He notes:

Video rules the torrent world because video is big, and the BitTorrent protocol is the most effective way to get video downloaded quickly. Small files like ebooks are elsewhere, unless they’re gathered into massive collections the size of Blu-Ray rips. Ebook piracy seems to be a minor issue today because ebook piracy is mostly invisible. It’s out there, and for all that I’ve pondered the problem, I return to the conclusion that the problem has no solution other than to sell the goods easily and cheaply, and to stop teaching people to be pirates by making the media experience complicated with DRM.

In the meantime, I’m considering purchasing this book for my local library. I think we as librarians need to understand these systems if we’re going to be working within and around them.

So Mayor Bloomberg: where is the People’s Library?

I’ve been waiting a few days to post anything. There have been conflicting reports on what happened to the Occupy Wall Street People’s Library when Zuccotti Park was raided and people in the Occupy Wall Street occupation were removed, sometimes forcibly. There were reports that the 5000+ books from the OWS Library had been tossed in a dumpster. Then there were reports that the materials were removed but not disposed of. The feeling that I got was that your impression of what happened to the stuff was shaped largely by which side of the project you sympathized with the most, but I was holding out hope that the OWS People’s Library materials would be found safe, even if I didn’t personally believe that would be the case. Today I have been reading the official reports from the people who had been working in the library and it seems that while some of their stuff is okay, much of it has been destroyed or missing. This is the current post that is being updated about the state of their stuff and the state of the people who were arrested inside the library [as of now, one appears to be out, one is still being held]. If you’re in the area, they’d appreciate some help sorting through things and especially transporting them.

update: very good overview about yesterday’s activities by Rachel Maddow. Nice shoutout to LibraryThing!

the Kindle lending experience from a patron’s perspective “a wolf in book’s clothing”

Cuneiform tablet on Kindle
[Kindle image by Tim Spalding, thanks Tim!]

I went to a staff meeting on Friday at the local library where I sometimes work. We did some strategic planning, some walking around the building looking at stuff that could be improved, and some “how to download various digital media format” exercises. We use Overdrive via Listen Up Vermont which gives us access to audiobooks and ebooks in EPUB and Kindle formats. I’m pretty okay at this sort of thing so we clicked around and saw how stuff worked and had a few little glitches but basically stuff was okay. I’ve been following the Amazon book lending story through the blogs the past few weeks and I’ve been skeptical but more curious than anything. I don’t have a Kindle but I’ve seen how popular they are and I was curious how this would all work. Well, as some bloggers have pointed out, it sort of doesn’t. Or, rather, it seems to require compromises to our systems and more importantly to our professional values. I’m hoping these issues can be resolved, but honestly if we can’t lend with some modicum of patron privacy, we shouldn’t be lending.

This is all leading up to an email exchange I had with a reader who was wondering the best way to raise concerns with his librarian about the user experience of borrowing a Kindle book from his library to use with the Kindle app on a non-Kindle device. Apparently, while the process to obtain the book wasn’t too difficult, the process to actually get RID of the book once returned [without a lot of pesky "hey maybe you should BUY this" cajoling] was actually fairly difficult. The default settings are, not surprisingly, strongly urging that the patron purchase (not renewal, not some sort of overdue notification) the book that they have just “returned.” I’ll let the patron speak for himself on this process. His name is Dan Smith and this is reprinted with his express permission.
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My first experience at “borrowing a Kindle book from the library” has left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It did not feel like borrowing a book from a library. It felt like a salesperson had sold me a book with a “no-risk free home trial” and was pestering me to buy it at the end of the trial period.

I feel that Amazon’s commercial promotion is excessive, and imposes inappropriately on public library patrons. Would you allow distributor’s rep to stand in the hall, grabbing people on their way to the return slot, saying “Stop! Why RETURN it when you can BUY it instantly for just $12.95?”

Yes, some of the irritations can be sidestepped, and as a savvy user I now know how. But Amazon took advantage of my innocence.

FIrst, the book was all marked up! Dotted underlines here and there on almost every page. It was like taking out a library book and finding someone had gone over it with a highlighter! Amazon allow “library” ebooks to be marked and annotated. Instead of cleaning them up for the next patron, it leaves them in place, and encourages you make your own marks for other people to see. I thought this was just some misguided idea about social networking, but it’s more sinister than that.

I turns out that there is a global setting, “Popular Highlights,” which controls whether you see these marks. But it is on by default! I never knew it was there, because it is only activated when a book has lots of them, and this was the first Kindle book I’ve read that had them. The setting to turn them off is buried, and couldn’t find it right away. Blame me for stupidity, but also blame Amazon, because I don’t think most readers want their books scribbled up, and I think Amazon defaults the setting to “on” to serve their own agenda.

Second, at the end of the loan period, instead of politely announcing that the book would be returned… or offering a renewal… or possibly even sending overdue fines to the library :) … I was instead confronted by intrusive ads, both in my Kindle application and in my regular email, urging me to buy the book from Amazon.

The email made a point of saying “If you purchase ‘The Bed of Procrustes’ or borrow it again from your local library, all of your notes and highlights will be preserved.” So, that’s why they encourage readers to scribble in library books: they want to hold our marginalia up for ransom.

Third, when the book is returned, it does not simply evaporate. The title, jacket and all, remained visible on my Kindle, exactly as if it were still there, but the behind the book cover is nothing but a notice that it has gone back to the library–and a button I can press. Renewal was not an option. The only option shown is to buy it from Amazon.

It looks like a book, but it’s a wolf in book’s clothing.

Fourth, it was hard to clean that ad out of my Kindle application. I could not find any “delete” option. There is an “archive” option, but all it does is move the book into an “archived items” list, where it continued to sit, looking just like the real books I’ve paid for and might want to re-download. Except that if you click on this one, all you get is a choice of “cancel” or “purchase.” Who would want to save that? But neither I nor an Amazon rep was able to find any deletion option within the Kindle application. The rep claims that the actual Kindle device has this capability, but could not explain why the Kindle application doesn’t. I was able to remove it by using a Web browser, logging into my account on the Amazon website, navigating to a “Manage Your Kindle” page, and deleting it via regular Web access. Fine. Now I know. Twenty minutes of my life wasted finding out.

I’ve now gotten a SECOND email solicitation from Amazon urging me to buy this book. How many I more I will receive?

Amazon gets plenty of promotion just by being the only Kindle book source. Their pushy “Don’t RETURN it, BUY it” attitude is out of bounds.

Banned Books Week 2011, a web content rundown

It’s time for my semi-regular round up of Banned Books Week websites. You can look at past posts on this topic by checking out the bannedbooksweek tag here or here is a list of the annual posts More on the Chicago Defender.
Here are my old Banned Books Weeks posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. I skipped 2005.

As usual, you get a neat real-time look at what’s going on by following the Twitter hashtag. As usual there are two “main” sites the ALA site at ala.org/bbooks and the bannedbooksweek.org site. ALA has their usual site, links to shopping, links to the main site (which is a 404, oops), links to advocacy materials. They decided to do a virtual read-out instead of an in-person event and I’ve been clicking through some of the YouTube videos on the BBW channel. All the stuff I’ve seen so far seems like it would be what we call SFW [safe for work] and I’m vaguely curious if there could be something so racy that you’d get one of those “You have to be 14 to see this video” warnings up because, hey, that’s its own form of limiting speech. But I think that stuff is only for photos of people in their underwear, or maybe self-reported. The Banned Books Week main site has been up and down today and seems to mostly be pointing to the same stuff. They have a Twitter account but have never used it. The design gets better every year.

Here is the list of organizations who are co-sponsors. Let’s look at their websites.

There is also the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress who endorses Banned Books Week (though no link on their site?) as well as a few organizations who have signed on as sponsors

So I’d cautiously call this an improvement over last year. More coordinated programming, better talking between sites. I’m still looking for a good Banned Books Week Twitter list [i.e. with the sponsors] and if I don’t see one I guess I’ll make one. I’ve been enjoying the YouTube videos. My own tastes this year go to ebooks and thinking about, with the additional layer of middlemen in the ebook world of buying, licensing and lending, what it really means to be banned or censored an an ebook universe. Look for a post about pirates later in the week.

Thief does research, finds hidden passage to secret library and steals books. Old but good.

I’m afraid my burning passion overrode my conscience. It may appear selfish, but I felt the books had been abandoned. They were covered with dust and pigeon droppings and I felt no one consulted them any more. There was also the thrill of adventure – I was very scared of being found out.

Book thief explains why he stole 1,100 ancient books in a hidden room in a monastery library. The theft and the sentencing happened several years ago but just popped on to my radar and resulted in my finding another neat source of library/security information, the library theft category fo the Museum Security Network blog. Current posts are password protected but they become available after a while. Here is their post on what drives people to steal precious books.
Details of the secret room didn’t make the major media, but can be found in this Masters thesis on bibliokleptomania

“While some structural details are uncertain, many accounts agree on certain aspects of Gosse’s methods. The journey inside required him to scale a sheer exterior wall, which led to an attic workshop, which is now part of the hotel. From there, he followed a disused corridor to the next building. At the end of the corridor, he climbed down a very old rope ladder to a small sealed room. By pushing on a portion of the wall, he discovered that a bookcase inside the next room gave way. He then found himself standing inside the library.”

[via]

Book is out, and some other things.

I don’t think I’ve taken two weeks off from this website since it started in 1999. A short explanation is in order. I received a box with five copies of my book in the mail on May 18th. The next day I received the news that my father had died. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere and I’m sorry if I should have told you personally and didn’t and you learned about it here.

So, what might have been a PR onslaught of epic proportions–I am very proud of this book and excited to see it done and almost perfect–turned into a completely different sort of set of weeks. I’ll write more about my father on my own blog and you’re welcome to read this thread on MetaFilter which has links to a lot of things to read about him including obits in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. We’ve also set up a memory page on 1000 Memories [free forever, I give these folks the thumbs up]. My father’s death was sudden but not totally unexpected. I had a good relationship with him which was hard-won because he was a difficult and somewhat complex man. I am doing okay, all things considered. I am well taken care of. I am his executor and there is a lot of work to do.

Yesterday I started thinking about the book again. I made a facebook page for it but it also has its own page which includes the full bibliography, web links and appendix. The local newspaper wrote a little article about it and I think I can get the local bookstore to stock it. I’ll be heading to the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit in a few days to talk about Ask MetaFilter and the digital divide. I have a small pile of stuff I’ve been meaning to put here, but wanted to let people know what was up first. Let me know if you liked the book. Thanks for being here.

the future of the book is ….

The future of the book, the printed book, is up in the air. People stand to make a lot of money if they can convince you that their version of the future of print and reading is correct. Many of us would just like to separate the wheat from the chaff and keep delivering good content to various sorts of readers, from now until forever. The Green Mountain Library Consortium released their statement about Harper Collins this week which, while not as strong as I personally would have liked, I think sends a “hey man, not cool” message and at least sends a “hey we’re paying attention” message which I think is the important part. In the meantime, there are a lot of people who have a fairly good understanding of the general ebook situation who are deciding to poke a bit of fun at the crazy world we’re currently inhabiting. John Scalzi has made an electronic publishing bingo card which, while amusing in and of itself, has a weath of great discussion in the comments.

I’ll note that I spent a good chunk of time over this past week going over my page proofs [again] and yet I have no idea at all what the ebook for my book will look like or even what format(s) it will be available in. I can’t wait for this in-between time to be over with.

A readers bill of rights for digital books

I’m going to be on the road at SXSW for the next week. People who are also going should come to my panel on Friday at 5, or attend one of the librarian meetups. And say hi if you see me, here is my schedule. In the meantime I’ll be keeping an eye on the #HMOD debacle and polishing up places to put this logo. The site, ReadersBillofRights.info, says “Please use these images in support of our work against DRM with the Readers’ Bill of Rights for Digital Books.” Nice list of associated things to read down the righthand side there.