OCLC Research  

Above the Fold

A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

March 2, 2010
Vol. 3, No. 8
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


E-Library Economics  (External site)

Inside Higher Ed   •  February 10, 2010

The hard truth about hard copy. Recent studies suggest it might take up to 50 years, or two generations, before faculty in some disciplines will accept the predominance of digital resources over hard copy. But the economics may help to persuade them: estimates peg the cost of keeping a book on a shelf at a little over $4 a year, versus about 15 cents for a digital version.

This is the most disheartening saga. I feel badly for my colleague, Suzanne Thorin, the university librarian at Syracuse who is being vilified for acknowledging that the research library in the contemporary academy cannot contribute to the central academic mission without dramatic changes to its traditional processes and services. Managing the local book collection as part of a broad national pattern of provision, particularly alongside the emerging digital aggregations of text, could give readers and researchers more and better than any local print inventory. I'm looking forward to seeing the report mentioned in the article authored by another colleague, Paul Courant, from the University of Michigan but will have to wait until sometime in April. The faster it's available the better. Cost evidence in these discussions is largely absent. Read the comments to fully appreciate the bile that this topic can attract. ( Michalko)


Clash of the Titans  (External site)

Steamthing.org   •  January 30, 2010

The biggest loser? In retaliation for demanding $15 for Macmillan e-books, Amazon has removed the publisher's offerings from its site. The ironic thing is that the feud appears to be over who can lose the most money on e-books.

Of course, Amazon ended this with a surprisingly quick backstep. Nonetheless, a very intelligent blog post about the lurching efforts of publishers to arrive at a new business model. Again, the comments expand the post and its argument. This time without the ad hominem. There's a nice NYTimes overview of the economics of producing a book in different formats here. ( Michalko)


Browse is the New Black  (External site)

Experiencing Information   •  February 7, 2010

Vive la différence. Blogger James Kalbach notes that although advances in search are helping us track down more of what we're looking for, browsing allows us to uncover information that we never even knew we needed. Read on for a discussion of information as experience and why the future of search may be more browse.

One of the objections about moving physical book collections to remote and less expensive storage is that the serendipity of browsing is lost. This is a nice post about what browsing really means. I would have liked a bit more expansion of the differences between the conditions for successful physical browsing and electronic browsing. And by the way, it was interesting to see the LibraryThing ShelfBrowse feature held up as an innovative attempt to fuse the two. It's actually not hard to do. We knew how to do it back when we created the RedLightGreen catalog. We took it out during user testing. Students were baffled why anybody would want their results arranged this way. As I've said before—by the time users are in a catalog, selection has already happened. ( Michalko)


Crowdsourcing the Museum  (External site)

Museum Marketing   •  February 12, 2010

Virtual volunteers. Several museums are reaching out online for assistance in creating, cropping and tagging collections. Mobilizing your online communities can provide much-needed resources for time-consuming projects and build a support base of stakeholders at the same time.

There are a lot of nice clickable examples in this post and the responses to it. It's interesting to watch the museum community run ahead with this kind of audience engagement and input. There aren't a lot of comparable library examples. This might be a question of scale. Many of the successful museums attract a national and often a global user base. Apart from national libraries (with my favorite example being the National Library of Australia) there are few that can command this scale. ( Michalko)


Meet the First Miners of the New Social Graph  (External site)

ReadWriteWeb     February 10, 2010

Six degrees . . . Applying new search algorithms to social networks can help find people who can find people. This definitely has its creep-out potential, but could also prove a boon for locating influential supporters or subject matter experts. "This is essentially collaborative filtering used in recommendation, for people as the object rather than books, CDs or movies (Amazon) or search results (Page Rank)," says one Web entrepreneur. Read on to find out more about this latest trend.

I am convinced that this is going to be important one day. But as one of the developers quoted in the article says "It feels like we're still in the fourth grade." ( Michalko)


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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Research items are supplied by staff in OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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