Contact me

These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Trim pdfs for your ereader with Briss

Click here to find an open source tool to make it easier to read pdfs on screens the pdf program really wasn't designed for: ereaders.

Amazon ebooks overtake paperbacks

Click here to read the full story.

"Barely six months after crowing that its Kindle e-books were outselling its selection of hardcover books, Amazon has announced that sales of Kindle titles are now outpacing paperbacks, as well.

"The news came as Amazon announced its (disappointing, for Wall Street) earnings Thursday, with online retailing giant noting that since January 1, U.S. customers have bought 115 Kindle editions for every 100 paperbacks sold."

The trend continues apace.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm reading a book

Sometimes, well, click here to see what I'm talking about.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Minimalist writing tools

I downloaded an interesting program for my Ubuntu system today. It's called "PyRoom." Written in the Python programming language, it is like a walk back through time.

I went to the Synaptic software manager, found that PyRoom was listed as a choice, so installed it. A few moments later, it showed up in my "Office" menu. Launch it and you get...

* a mostly black screen, with a thin, outlined box for text in the middle.

* text that defaults to green (but I changed to amber).

And that's it. No menus, no control buttons. I don't even think it will print - you have to copy and paste into something else.

If you're not sure how to do something, type Ctrl-H and a help screen comes up in another black window. Ctrl-I tells you how many words you've written. Ctrl-P lets you change a few things. Ctrl-S lets you save a file. Ctrl-O lets you open more files to work with. Ctrl-Page Up or Down toggles between those files.

But basically, this cutting-edge program puts you back to word processing in 1985: an environment that is Zen-like in its purity, and apparently knows nothing at all about IM, or email, or distractions. So leaves you with nothing to focus on but creating text. Cruel, isn't it?

Apparently, the idea for this came from WriteRoom, which is a Mac program. You can even find a version of it online here, if you would like to sample the experience in a browser window. There are other distraction-free programs for various platforms: Q10 seems to be one of the best for Windows, and it has spell check!

ALSO, if you use the Chrome or Chromium browser, go to the "Web Store" and download Write Space. Open a tab to get the big, blank window. Type, and get both word count and spellcheck highlighting. It saves LOCALLY with each keystroke, as an SQLite database. It doesn't print or export, though - you have to copy and paste to something else.

Oh, and get this. All of them are free!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More on ebooks

First, here's the graphic (revised):



[Click on it to get a more readable size!]

Next, here's a little more text to describe my thinking about the issues faced by libraries this year.

From left to right -- in something like chronological order -- I think there are 7 key strategic directions:

* Free content. Thanks to the amazing Valerie Horton of CLiC, it took just two months to deliver about 500 classics to virtually any library that already knew how to load a MARC file. If memory serves, over 68 countries, and some 2000+ libraries have at least looked at the file, and may well have downloaded it. Whether we use public domain or Creative Commons titles, we've proved we can quickly add them to our "holdings," and thereby demonstrate that libraries are paying attention.

* Vendors. Overdrive we know about; 3M and Baker and Taylor are now rolling out products, too. But we have to be vigilant to ensure that the content shows up in our catalogs (instead of requiring one search per source, like databases), AND that we continue to get DISCOUNTS, not price hikes for materials that are far cheaper to produce and distribute than paper. Libraries are a cooperative purchasing agreement, and we contribute, today, some 10% of the entire publishing market's income, and for children's books, 40%. That deserves a discount.

* Training. We do public tech petting zoos, one-on-one support, and online training right now. But we can be more systematic about all of these. Where are the Youtube guides?

* We have to work econtent more smoothly into our systems and work flow. We need mobile apps for people to grab our content, perhaps managing it from a Dropbox-like cloud location. Monique (head of IT at Douglas County Libraries) tells me that the Adobe Content Server would allow us to grab any ebook, with or without Digital Rights Management, and circulate it ("check it out," for you non-librarians). We can restrict use to one-copy-at-a-time, just as we've done for over a century. We don't NEED a vendor to offer us that content-and-presentation service. We'll be testing this in the first half of the year. I'm working with an ALA task force to help us roll out a "give an eBook to the Library" national campaign, highlighting the issues involved. Like, if you buy an ebook, you own it, right? So you can give it away!

* Display: our prototype Digital Power Wall is under rapid development. Imagine a wall-sized iPad that let you browse ebooks, then check them out on the spot.

* Longer term, I'd like to see libraries step into the world of self-publishing, guiding local writers up to a level of quality, then offering their ebooks for public use.

* Finally, resource sharing. I haven't given much thought to this one yet. First we have to learn how to acquire, display, and manage these materials as well as we do everything else. But eventually, we'll want to loan them to other libraries. Valerie has already started thinking about this.

There's a lot libraries can and should do, right now, to do what we've always done: provide public access to the intellectual content of our culture.