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Above the Fold

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

May 16, 2011
Vol. 4, No. 19
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


The Argumentative Theory  (External site)

Edge   •  April 27, 2011

Age of unreason. This interview with cognitive scientist Hugo Mercier quotes social psychologist Jonathan Haidt's assertion that "Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments." Read this conversation on argumentative theory for more insight on why people cling to false beliefs, despite all evidence to the contrary.

This is a very thought-provoking overview of the emerging theory that reasoning is for argument. It explains our confirmation bias and reason-based choice. And it links back nicely to an article we featured two issues ago, The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science. It makes a strong case for a different style of education as well as democratic practice. If we get better results from arguing then there may be something transformative about the movement of politics and government to the social net. ( Michalko)


Would You Pay for Search?  (External site)

The Technium   •  April 26, 2011

Food for thought. Kevin Kelly suggests a few possible pricing schemes for search "in an alternate world" where it's not free. His attempt to quantify time and money saved using Google are worth checking out, and provides some interesting fodder for further conversations about the value of reference desks.

I'm not sure that there is a good connection between these musings on the value quantification of search and what actually goes on at a reference desk. I imagine there's been a shift from "ready" reference to more difficult, collection-centric questions at the library desk but I'd have to ask my OCLC colleagues who investigate such things. For my part I'm in the Kelly camp on the things for which I'd pay—Google Search, Google Maps, Wikipedia, IMDB, MyYahoo, and more. See the next article for what you might pay for a book. ; ) ( Michalko)


Amazon's $23,698,655.93 Book About Flies  (External site)

It Is NOT Junk blog   •  April 22, 2011

Inside look at algorithmic pricing. This piece by Michael Eisen, an evolutionary biologist who blogs about "genomes, DNA, evolution, open science, baseball and other important things," chronicles an algorithmic price war over an out-of-print book. Obviously, at $23 million, things got a bit out of hand—read on for an amusing tale of technology gone wild.

Eric Hellman wishes he'd spotted this; he'd have had fun deconstructing what was going on. Maybe he'll appropriate the technique for his GlueJar enterprise. The comments here led to an interesting discussion on Hacker News. What this post discovers and unpacks in the algorithmic pricing is the trivial case to high-speed algorithmic equity trading. ( Michalko)


Librarians at the Gate  (External site)

Publishers Weekly   •  April 25, 2011

Let's talk. Some libraries are having a hard time keeping up with e-book demand, which in some cases has risen ten-fold over the last year. Meanwhile, Overdrive reported a 200% increase in 2010 over 2009 figures and AAP reports a similar increase from February 2010 to February 2011. With burgeoning patron demand for new titles and tech support, the prospect of spiraling costs is daunting. It's way past time for libraries and publishers to sit down at the table and negotiate a reasonable plan.

A good overview of the current landscape with some pretty startling statistics that show the rapidity of e-book uptake. It acknowledges that e-book provision is licensing and not ownership and even nods to Eli Nieberger's Libraries are Screwed presentation. ( Michalko)


Mike Matas: A Next-Generation Digital Book  (External site)

TED Talks 2011   •  April

Innovation at work. We've seen a lot of digital book models, but this one has some especially clever features that are worth checking out. It's only four minutes—take a look.

This isn't an example of the kinds of e-books that are being demanded in the previous article but it's pretty slick and a potential evolutionary path for books that embrace their e-ness. Or it could be the current manifestation of the Voyager Company's books on CD-ROM. ( Michalko)


Above the Fold Quiz:

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what is "by-the-drink purchasing"?

Click here to find the answer.


News and Views

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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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