Friday, April 29, 2011

Interactive App Platform for Book Publishing

Two former Apple employees and Al Gore have teamed up to develop and promote a new app called Push Pop Press for publishing books. This Wired article details this development and includes a “how-to” video from Al Gore. As János accurately pointed out in his blog post from 4/27, digital publishing is blowing up. People want to do more with books. They want to interact with books and have options for accessing further information about the topic from within the book itself. This particular publishing app allows for picture expansion, embedded videos, interactive graphics, definitions, and the like. It looks simply beautiful and seamless. More information about Al Gore’s book and the download are available here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shared library system operated by the National Library

An interesting model....

SirsiDynix, EBSCO Publishing, and Computer Concepts Ltd. have been selected to work with Kōtui to develop a shared library system operated by the National Library of New Zealand for subscribing public libraries.

"Through Kōtui, library customers will be able to easily discover and access resources from home or from school or work as well as from inside a library."

Ms Sutherland says Kōtui will give member libraries access to centralised expertise and a help desk offered through an augmented Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa (APNK) service.

"The shared service will provide a substantially improved service to all member libraries and councils at costs which could not be achieved by councils acting individually to implement levels of service offered by Kōtui."

As background:
LSynCNZ (Library Systems in Collaboration, NZ) is a joint project between public libraries and the National Library of New Zealand to develop and fund a business case for a shared library system under a library systems consortium. The vision for Kōtui is:
"Libraries working together to provide all of their customers with easy, fast and effective access to the local, national and international resources they need to live, learn and earn."

Read more:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reading is about to change too

The Futures Initiative hasn't much discussed future trends in media, largely because we have the positive attitude that, whatever comes, we'll still help users discover and access it. The medium is merely a container, and changing that doesn't change the essential role and value of libraries. However we ought not ignore trends in this area completely. This interview with YA author Amanda Harvard illuminated some significant developments in storytelling. Harvard's debut novel The Survivors was just published last month, but she and a friend have been Tweeting as two of the main characters since 2009. First they just conversed with each other, but now fans are interacting with the characters in real-time. The author is also collaborating with musicians to release songs based on the book.* Partly this is just novel marketing, but it's also, as Harvard says, allowing "readers to be able to connect to these characters as just what they are: people. In this way, The Survivors extends beyond the singular medium of the book. It is so much bigger than just the words on the page." Harvard also describes exclusively real locations and brands, both for verisimilitude and for potential cross-marketing. Perhaps its not so ridiculous if you consider the emergence of Forks, Washington as a tourist destination despite not having sights particularly tied to the Twilight series.

Reading is going to become largely digital. It's happened with music and it's happening now with movies. Moreover social media is refocusing technology on enabling humans to do what humans evolved to do best: talk with each other. What kind of trends will emerge as books take advantage of digital and social capabilities?

Certainly e-books will begin incorporating a lot more multimedia. We'll see more pictures and maps, even video. Features like these would be particularly useful for e-textbooks. Many current textbooks have review questions at the ends of chapters; what greater value if the book actually calculated students' scores and provided immediate feedback on their mastery of the material? But multimedia will enhance fiction as well. Imagine fantasy novels with flyover animations of the terrain, chick lit with links to buy the various fashions mentioned, or crypto-thrillers where readers have to solve puzzles to advance to the next chapter. (If all this seems abhorrent to you, remember; no one is going to be forcing you to read it. Linear storytelling won't go away, but it may become a niche product.)

Social technologies will also be integrated into reading. Successful e-reading devices will allow users to share passages and reactions with others. The pittance students make by selling their used textbooks might be supplanted by a thriving market for annotations and highlights done by high-performing scholars. The relationship between authors and readers will become more of a two-way street as consumer-created content and feedback becomes more incorporated and influential.

So those are just a few predictions. As a responsible futurist, I can't claim to be all-knowing or that I've covered more than a fraction of this topic. However it behooves the Futures Initiative to touch on these trends at least a little. What other ramifications can folks suggest?

*And shouldn't links to ancillary material like this be included in our catalog records?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We must design for the way the world is, not the way we wish it were

Incompetent Research Skills Curb Users' Problem Solving
Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, April 11, 2011

Very interesting, short article about strategies in web searching and its effect on problem solving. How does this apply to library searching? How can we help students search/problem solve better?

Here are a few quotes:
  • the rough estimate from our available data is obvious: users change search strategy only 1% of the time; 99% of the time they plod along a single unwavering path. Whether the true number is 2% or 0.5%, the big-picture conclusion is the same: users have extraordinarily inadequate research skills when it comes to solving problems on the Web.It also highlights a big problem with search today: it doesn't facilitate any conceptual knowledge because it relies on quick in-out dips into websites.
  • In general, we almost never see people use advanced search. And when they do, they typically use it incorrectly -- partly because they use it so rarely that they never really learn how it works.
  • For today's Web design projects, we must design for the way the world is, not the way we wish it were.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What is a Library?

Guest author, Hugh McGuire, wrote an intriguing article (What are Libraries For?) for the In the Library with the Leadpipe blog this week. The philosophy behind his argument echoes our February discussion: focusing on why libraries exist rather than linking our identity too closely with how we accomplish that mission, trying to avoid preserving the problem for which we are the solution, and identifying a new core of what makes libraries valuable in changing times. I'm curious to hear what others think of his conclusions -- certainly they are among those discussed by the Futurists at the February meeting. Would you add to this list? Argue with it?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Transforming Traditional Organizations

Jeffrey Trzeciak - Chief Librarian at McMaster University - gave a talk earlier this month at Penn State titled Transforming Traditional Organizations. The talk focused on the process and measures McMaster used to transform and update a "library in [a] state of decline." While the video clocks in at a little over an hour, Mr. Trzeciak's remarks and visions for the future of academic libraries are provocative and worth hearing - critical reaction of some sort is guarenteed.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New models for e-book lending

MPR's recent report on e-books and libraries, "The Future Of Libraries In The E-Book Age," had a number of good points that I hadn't seen overtly covered in other articles. Publishers are justifiably concerned about a situation where an infinite number of copies could be produced off a single sale. However the current solution imposes a hopelessly out-of-touch physical business model, requiring that e-books only be available to one user at a time. This is a slap in the face to the whole point of digital content, which is instantaneity. The model suggested in the article by NYPL's Christopher Platt is exactly what I would advocate; libraries would license x number of uses per title which could be circulated simultaneously until the threshold is met, at which point the library would decide whether or not to purchase additional uses. Essentially this is what HarperCollins is offering, but 26 uses is clearly much, much too low a bid. This would probably require new budgeting strategies, but most large libraries already have an algorithm to purchase additional copies of print books if the ratio of requests to copies hits a predefined threshold.

This does come down pretty heavily on libraries having licensed rather than owned content. I'm not terribly bothered by that prospect, and I'm adopting as a mantra the best quote from the article: "it may be heretical — but the future usually is." However perhaps a hybrid model may be more appealing. Perhaps the initial purchase includes an owned digital copy, so that once the licensed iterations are used up there is still a copy available on the one-user-at-a-time model which will probably be adequate once demand dies down. And for content that will become outdated, like travel guides, perhaps libraries will be able to forego the retained copy for a discount.

One thing is for sure, though; making users wait in line for digital content is completely at odds with user expectations.