In this issue:
Inside Higher Ed • November 25, 2009
Hot demand for secondhand. Libraries are devoting an increasing portion of their budgets to secondhand book purchases, reducing costs and extending the shelf life of "out of print" works. Indeed, "new media, print-on-demand, and the online secondhand book market have rendered the [out of print] label anachronistic," says author Scott McLemee, who adds: "I feel like a junkie learning there will be heroin in heaven."
McLemee reviews the November issue of Against-the-Grain and its feature "Is There Any Such Thing as an Out-of-Print Book Anymore?" He seems to be surprised that libraries buy used books, but does a good job of summarizing the issue. ( LeVan)
Bloomberg News • November 20, 2009
Jumpstarting e-readership. Forrester Research predicts that in five years, college students will constitute the largest market for e-readers and academic publishers are latching onto digital publishing as a way to head off the burgeoning secondhand textbook market. And although there are still hurdles to overcome, the market for digital textbooks is significant—68 million potential customers if primary and secondary students are included.
The article cites the physical weight of textbooks and the desire of publishers to avoid used-book sales of their material as reasons for a fairly quick migration to e-book readers, even faster than for trade publications. All the projections of significant market share, though, are 5-10 years out (which can usually be read as "no one knows when"), while Amazon is claiming that e-book sales for trade publications are currently at 48% of the physical if the Kindle version is available. My guess is that textbooks won't really be accepted unless they can be used on student's computers. Dedicated readers are too limiting for the demanding material of textbooks. ( Hickey)
The Guardian • November 29, 2009
Ode to indy booksellers. Journalist Rachel Cooke touts the joys of bricks-and-mortar book-browsing, and the unique services rendered by small, independent booksellers: "Ask any truly passionate reader and they will tell you of a childhood that involved one or all of the following three things: an enthusiastic teacher or parent; a good local library; a good local bookshop."
Beyond the rapturous description of shelf-browsing as a journey of self-discovery, this article provides a useful snapshot of how niche-marketing is sustaining the long tail. The author misses the point, however, by assuming that the bricks-and-mortar discovery environment supports a better kind of curation than is possible in the online marketplace. In fact, Amazon's ability to aggregate a vast and varied supply of titles, as well as a huge pool of sales data, is probably doing more to keep literary fiction in business than any number of High Street or back street bookshops. (See this article in The Economist which Lorcan has already blogged about, for an analysis of consumer behaviors in the marketplace for books.) There is something slightly comical about a literary agent-turned-bookseller claiming to hold the advantage over larger online retailers with her "serious expertise and good taste" in books, as if data-driven recommender systems are intrinsically deficient because they lack aesthetic sense. In fact, the comforting sense of place that Cooke finds in her local bookshop is no different from the self-recognition that we experience in virtually any dedicated social network—online or off. ( Malpas)
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft • November 2009
Virtual archives. Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research is developing software to digitally archive works of art in 3D. The 3D-COFORM project will enable museum visitors "to revolve Roman amphorae through 360 degrees on screen, or take off on a virtual flight around a temple."
I remember a JCDL conference in 2002 where Jeremy Rowe (U of Arizona) told me that the data in his 3-D models of native American pottery allowed conclusions about the size of the potter's hands who shaped the vessel. 3D-COFORM aims to make 3D technology mainstream in cultural heritage organizations. Once they have succeeded, we will all finally have to agree to dispense with the term "surrogate," and find nomenclature which denotes the symbiotic relationship between the original and that other thing since they both provide exclusive / complimentary experiences and information. (P.S.: While I couldn't find the 3D David mentioned in the text, the 3D-COFORM Consortium has a video of a 3D model of Mogao Cave 322 in Dunhuang, China.) ( Waibel)
BBC News Magazine • November 27, 2009
Deconstructing chaos. We all talk about the overwhelming volume of information available on the Web and elsewhere, but what does it really mean? Author David McCandless offers some suggestions for software that can make sense of the numbers and allow you to quickly draw conclusions about the data you're mining.
This quick overview of some ways to supplement or recast otherwise textual presentations with well-designed visualizations reminded me of the enduring value of Edward Tufte's work. I recall the impact of his The Visual Display of Quantitative Information when it was first published in 1983. If you're considering McCandless' suggestions and have not yet reviewed Tufte's pioneering work, I highly recommend taking the time. Challenging, but ultimately rewarding. ( Washburn)