From a (very entertaining) intro to a readers’ advisory service on The Morning News:

It is important to draw a distinction between Amazon’s “Customers Also Bought” feature and the Biblioracle. Amazon is primarily constituted of servers and processors and computer programs. Amazon employs only seven actual human beings plus Jeff Bezos, who is a cyborg. The Biblioracle is flesh and blood.

best opening lines graphic

Yeah, I’ve got some deadlines to meet. But you know what? Sometimes taking a break to play in Photoshop is just what I need to get on track.

Ever since Stephen Abram mentioned the 100 best opening lines from novels list from the American Book Review I wanted to put them into some sort of image. Mostly because I enjoy looking at vast canvases of Helvetica.

Today was the day. It looks only okay shrunken down here, but laser printed at its full tabloid size of 11″x17″ [15.21 MB – wow] it looks pretty nice. If you want to print it but aren’t crazy about the background color, I’ve uploaded a Photoshop file for you: firstlines.psd [7.27MB].

If you print of it, I’d love to see a photo of it hanging up.

click-a-story two

UPDATE: A few people said that the video crashed their browsers. I’ve taken it out of this post and put it on a separate page. I’ll have to sort it out. Any reports would be appreciated!

Way back in the day at the TFML some YS librarians recorded stories, I put them online and since the site is (soon to be was, I understand), blog based, the stories were being podcast. Yay. As neat as it was to have a podcast, the interface for listening to stories online was not ideal. As you’ve likely experienced before, clicking on an mp3 takes you to a grey page with a simple controller. Not very pretty, and not good for usability.

I want to provide a better interface for listening to stories the second time I implement a “listen to stories online” program. Considering how easy it is to add artwork to audio by exporting AAC files from Garageband, I thought I’d start there.

This is fine and dandy but makes iTunes the only way to see the artwork while listening to the audio. Why? I can’t find any online tools that will let me embed .m4a files in a website. Do you know of one?

Compressor is one of the most versatile file encoding tools and I guessed that if anything could convert an .m4a file into something useful (like a QuickTime file to embed!) that would be it. It did, but with only slightly satisfactory results. Something like this will appear on the NPPL’s Click-A-Story page (yes, that’s the same name, but give me a break, the libraries are across the country). If this embedded video doesn’t appear in your RSS aggregator, you’ll have to click through:

The offending video was here. To see it, though for some reason it might crash your browser, here it is on a seperate page.

iTunes artwork is 300×300 pixels, but Compressor keeps turning the files into 160×160 pixels for some reason. I’ve not yet been able to find the right setting that spits out proper images. Scrolling is unsatisfactory too. I thought I’d put this out regardless as a quick proof of concept, and to see if anyone has suggestions.

Recently, Joshua M. Neff posted about his library’s Johnson County Library Online Storytime. You know, the title of their project is pretty straightforward and I like it. Another part of the project that I like and that I’m planning on replicating is having CDs of the stories for distribution. That’s a good way to get content to do more work.

I’ll be sure to let you know when the project is live and what the response is like!

all afire for the kindle

Have you seen all of the links pointing to The Future of Reading, a “Newsweek” article by Steven Levey? Well, there’s one if you haven’t. What the excitement? releases their ebook reader, called the Kindle, tomorrow. Along with it comes a wireless content purchasing system. The article is worth a read and it claims that the print book will be a thing of the past in 50 years. Gasp! I’ve heard that one before, but to be honest, the more time goes on, the more I think it could be true.

O’Reilly thinks the device is somewhat irrelevant and finds the wireless book purchasing/download aspect more interesting. This makes sense coming from a publisher, and probably librarians too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: anywhere on demand delivery is a potentially strong threat to public libraries.

Speaking of libraries, they’re mentioned once in the article and not in the typical doom-and-gloom-the-sky-is-falling-on-them way. In fact, it kind of makes it seem like we’re a step ahead of Bezos and the Kindle.

Bezos explains that it’s only fair to charge less for e-books because you can’t give them as gifts, and due to restrictive antipiracy software, you can’t lend them out or resell them. (Libraries, though, have developed lending procedures for previous versions of e-books—like the tape in “Mission: Impossible,” they evaporate after the loan period—and Bezos says that he’s open to the idea of eventually doing that with the Kindle.)

Of course, this statement isn’t accurate. Libraries haven’t “developed lending procedures,” have we? No. Vendors and publishers have. In a pretty crumby way. The article makes our ebooks seem pretty cool though with a comparison to Mission: Impossible. Librarians reading the article will find the Mission: Impossible comparison apt but for entirely different reasons.

Mystery novelist James Patterson (did you know he came up with the slogan “Toys ‘R Us Kid?”) thinks ebooks will supplant paper books soon and reasons:

“The baby boomers have a love affair with paper,” he says. “But the next-gen people, in their 20s and below, do everything on a screen.”

Kids these days, I tell ya!

Other good bits from the article include thinking of ebooks as potentially social documents. Authors could update content easily. Users could comment, or even hold book discussions within a book. I like the idea of having different layers of a book that can be turned on and off at will.

So, the Kindle. Funny/sad footnote in the history of gadgets, or world changing device? I dunno, but I’m interested to see!

are our date due receipts as useful as they could be?

Here’s a fantastic idea mentioned to me this morning by a library volunteer: book recommendations on date due receipts. As in, If you liked [item checked out], check out [related item].

If vendors made this happen I wonder if they’d use subject headings to drive the recommendation engine. I don’t like this idea. It would be much more interesting to capture and use data about patterns in how the collection circulates. This would be a more user centered approach. Ideally there would also be a URL and code next to the recommendation so patrons could rate the pairing of items, providing human feedback into the process. It would improve with use, but I’m sure it would give some hilariously interesting recommendations too.

Does anything like this exist? John, Casey, Glenn, Dave? Could you build this for me soon please? KTHXBYE.

What about promoting upcoming library events on our receipts? Surely some library is doing this?

again with the eBooks

The (much deserved) hype surrounding the iPhone has spread to the publishing world. HarperCollins has released 14 Books for the iPhone. This lame attempt is unlikely to finally get ebooks right (an impossible task in our highly DRMed world), and might get people excited for only a limited amount of time. I do see the iPhone as an interesting piece of the eBook puzzle, though, considering it is the first high PPI device that people are carrying around on a daily basis.

I read about this right before I read Jessamyn’s post (with comments worth reading) about Overdrive, audiobooks, and the iPod. I love her attitude about making the most of a crappy DRM situation and using the inevitable patron iPod denial as a teachable moment about free audiobooks online.

Similarly, I doubt libraries will be circing titles to patron iPhones anytime soon. Instead we can tell them about Project Gutenberg and iPhone formatted PDFs from

the librarian in black in _Everything is Miscellaneous_

Ok so maybe I’m going to embarrass her, but I think it is so great that my friend Sarah is quoted in Everything is Miscellaneous. It is a killer quote about Gormangate where the phrase “irresponsible leadership” is used. Also in the discussion is a quote from Free Range Librarian Karen Schneider. Way to go, ladies!

the future of reading

The Economist had a great article last week titled Not bound by anything that attempts to answer the question, “Now that books are being digitised, how will people read?”

One of the author’s central ideas is that books are migrating online and ceasing to be books. Take for example wikipedia. He also writes,

Many fantasy fans, for example, have already put aside books and logged on to “virtual worlds” such as “World of Warcraft”, in which muscular heroes and heroines get together to slay dragons and such like. Science fiction may go the same way, and is arguably already being created by “residents” of online worlds such as Second Life.

What makes this claim somewhat more interesting in that it is tempered with the statement that

Most stories, however, will never find a better medium than the paper-bound novel. That is because readers immersed in a storyline want above all not to be interrupted, and all online media teem with distractions (even a hyperlink is an interruption).

I don’t think all fantasy readers have set down print books though I’m sure some have. However, many people are certainly getting the same (or greater) satisfaction from games in addition to reading books. With sales of the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3 approaching 8 million units (and let’s not forget the 8.5 million World of Warcraft players), it is safe to say that more people are either replacing or supplementing their reading with gaming.

The article isn’t just about gaming. There’s an interesting bit about recapturing the oral nature of poetry though podcasting, and getting haiku text messages. Both of these things, by the way, are services that any library could offer at no real cost…

eInk newspaper in Belgium

Yeah, I know, paper is an amazing technology, and books are really useful. They’ll be gone some day though. We’ll all likely be worm food when that day comes, but it’ll happen nonetheless. Now the world is one step closer.

Spending hours reading the papers may be an ideal pastime on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

But what if your newspaper updated itself during the day? What if the pictures moved and the interviews could be listened to?

In Belgium, this is coming true – at least for a three-month trial period. The Antwerp-based daily De Tijd will soon become the world’s first newspaper to publish a digital version on so-called ‘electronic paper’.

Those lucky Belgians will now get to eat great waffles and have eInk newspapers! Here’s the full article: Belgian newspaper to become first ‘paperless’ daily. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s going to be a revolution and newspapers are going to stop their presses soon. I’m just saying that this is a step in the evolutionary process.

One of my favorite essays about paper is The Social Life of Paper by (a way pre-Blink) Malcolm Gladwell. If you missed it in 2002, give it a read. There is even a great bit about Melvil Dewey in the article.