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Above the Fold

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

August 2, 2010
Vol. 3, No. 25
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


Can the Internet Save the Book?  (External site)

Salon   •  July 9, 2010

Mid-range support. This wide-ranging interview with Clay Shirky concludes with an interesting discussion of the fundamental relationship between authors and publishers. There's a "long, long, lonely gap" of editorial support between the 8,000-word magazine piece and the 80,000-word book—a big reason that many perfectly adequate 20,000-word essays get puffed up to book length. "That to me is the interesting part—not so much what the writers of tomorrow will be like, but rather, what's the ecosystem for improving writing going to be like? Because right now, you're basically either self-published and there's no ecosystem, or your published by a publisher, and then you get copy-edited and legally edited, and all the rest of it."

I am a Shirky fan despite my occasional disagreements. This interview is worth your time. You'll learn why books are like Russia, not Poland, why Usenet teaches better writing than Yale, and how theater studies prepares you to be a philosopher of the Internet. ( Michalko)


Libraries and Ebooks: Tough Issues that It's Time to Debate  (External site)

eReport—Digital Publishing Downunder   •  July 6, 2010

The debate downunder. Publisher Martin Taylor makes some interesting observations about the library vs. publisher costs/benefits of ebooks, particularly regarding the psychology of ebook ownership. If readers don't feel as compelled to "own" digital books as they do hardcover copies, publishers are in big trouble.

There's an observation here that makes it clear public libraries have avoided publisher scrutiny because of the high-level of friction in the borrowing transaction. This echoes many of the observations that my colleague, Lorcan Dempsey, has been making both in his presentations and his blog. It's a shift that transforms our entire value foundation. ( Michalko)


The The Future of Tech According to Kids: Immersive, Intuitive and Surprisingly Down-to-Earth  (External site)

ReadWriteWeb   •  July 7, 2010

What box? Kids who've grown up with computers come up with some great outside-the-box thinking on what they'd like to see in technology in the coming years—for instance: "I'd like it if my computer could convert images or food and make them real." The kids of today are our patrons of tomorrow and their expectations will shape everything from our physical space to our collections and services.

Worth a look but it will likely confirm what you've noticed about kids and technology from your own observations. It also confirmed for me that, even for children, what passes for "vision" is really just a bit of an extension of current experience. Take a look at Part 2 of the study which focuses on creating and creativity here. ( Michalko)


"Your Labels Make Me Feel Stupid"  (External site)

Art News   •  Summer 2010

You call this art? As museums increasingly attract a more diverse population of visitors, they're using focus groups and other observation techniques to help revamp exhibition design and labeling. "Our job is to strike a balance between the artist's wishes and our responsibility as an institution to make the work accessible to the public," says Whitney Museum education director Kathryn Potts. There's been some backlash from traditionalists but the majority of visitors appreciate the effort.

I've happily noticed these changes rippling across the museums I visit. Even though I have an above average threshold for museum fatigue and have always had issues with art that requires me to read a pamphlet before I can understand it. A Fluxus exhibit for instance. ( Michalko)


The Origins of Literacy  (External site)

The Economist   •  July 8, 2010

Through the looking glass. Neuroscientists have found the part of the brain that is activated for recognizing objects (such as words) responds both to the object and to its mirror image. The phenomenon, deeply rooted in our evolutionary history, helps explain children's occasional inability to distinguish "b" from "d" or "p" from "q." Read on for an interesting overview of how our brains process visual information and why many alphabets contain letters that look like "Y," "T" and "L."

This article happily reinforced that it is never too late to learn at least when it comes to reading and invoked one of my favorite words, boustrophedon, which I murmur to myself to maintain calm during airport check-in. ( 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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