Springer Verlag is a big publishing company, and they offer a great variety of titles, mostly of academic or technical nature. They also make available a number of e-book collections in various disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, etc. An interesting feature of the Springer user agreements with institutions in the ability of affiliated personnel to order hard copy POD, that’s Print On Demand, reprints of any Spring e-book, as long as the institution subscribes to at least one of the various e-book collections. As usual, “some restrictions apply”. The reprint will be in soft-cover binding, will have black and while illustrations and will take about ten days to reach you. It’s an interesting addition to the e-book delivery platform and seeks to take advantage of the fact that, despite everything, some people still want the physical item. The company charges about 25 USD for service, and that price is independent of the size of the book. Read the information on the Springer site. MyCOPY is the name given to this feature, and the fine print is in a window, at the left.
I’m sure that the practice of clicking on one of those Ten Best/Worst/Fastest/Coolest…you name the next one… web sites is a sign of mental deterioration. Still, once in a while it can pay off at least in the sense of a visual treat. The HuffPo site has such a teaser this morning, labeled colleges with the best libraries. It’s just a slide show, or a set of pictures taken maybe from the camera of an eccentric librarian on a field trip. The write-ups say nothing about collection size, special strengths, staff or anything really useful in determining why this one library is so great. A lot, apparently, rested on some kind of survey, but most pictures is pictures. And you have to take away the feeling that a great-looking building was no small element in the ratings. Not many surprises to be found: Harvard was first, Columbia second and then on down. Brigham Young was no. 3 with an absolutely stunning building. West Point has a fine structure too. But my favorite for Eye-Popping Libraries is the shot from Yale. I think that shot may be of the Rare Books library, and not the undergrad structure, but I could be wrong. Librarian eye candy at:
Well, some of it anyway. The G is working on those materials that are definitely outside any copyright protection at all from anybody ever. That’s still a lot of material, though. And it comes from some very interesting periods in history: the kickoff to the Industrial Revolution, that Revolution in France, with all the head-chopping, Napoleon, the growth of Britain as a world power, a war with Russia, the one in which Florence Nightingale emerged as the leader of a new style of nursing. In all, it’s quite an interesting time. The project will digitize more than a quarter million items. Not all of them are books.The total figure includes songs, sheet music, pamphlets ( a popular form of self-expression back then for those who just had to get something off their chests) and so on. The age and relative rarity of these materials may not lend themselves to treatment in Google’s assembly-line like approach to digitization. But the company finished digitizing the Bodleian Library at Oxford without any missteps or disasters, that I’ve heard about at least, so there probably won’t be any trouble at the BL either. The BL is in new quarters, not far from a railway station. St.Pancras? The old building is the one with the great Reading Room under the skylight. That’s where Karl Marx wrote Capital. When we were there, visitors were not allowed to enter the Reading Room, but you could stand in the doorway and look. Materials in the BL project will be available via other carriers, so the deal with Google is not exclusive.
Fallout is a funny word. It’s used to describe unintended effects or consequences, but originally it meant just what it said: something that fell out. What fell was radioactive by-products of a nuclear or thermonuclear explosion. See, all that stuff was carried up in the atmosphere and then, fell out onto the earth, water or in one famous case, a Japanese fishing boat that somehow wandered into the test zone and got heavily doused with all kinds of nasty particles. The writer at Scholarly Kitchen has a post about the Google Book Deal. We’ve been watching that in these lines, and the last news is that the judge presiding told the parties it was no soap. So, publishers, authors and about two battalions of lawyers are huddling to see if they can salvage something that on the one hand will meet the interests of the parties and on the other, get by the judge. In the Kitchen piece, the interesting point is made that it doesn’t matter in some ways. The mere possibility of Google’s being the sole and absolute owner of digitized book content on such a scale propelled a number of interests to work jointly on other digitization efforts that would lie outside the terrain marked out as Google’s playground in the suggested settlement. the Hathitrust, European digitization projects and some consolidations and acquisitions in electronic publishing would not have happened without the stimulus provided by what seemed to a ‘done-deal’ between Google and the publishers’/authors’ guild. These other efforts are well underway and will probably continue at or near ‘full speed’ status, while Google tries to get its own donkey out of the ditch. It’s an interesting proposition. Google set the standard for big-scale digitization and went off to do in fact what many others had been speculating and whining about. They pushed the technology also, and showed where some of the pitfalls are likely to be. Image quality is one of these. So, let’s hear it for Google. No matter what the outcome of negotiations on revising the Deal, the other projects are going on, without legal challenge or hassling, and we owe it all to those imperial ambitions.
September is Library Card Sign Up Month. Don’t believe me? Well, OK, believe the American Library Association which has an item to this effect on their website. There is also an interesing article in Prospero, the kulshah blog of The Economist which wonders about reviving the library as a force on more people’s lives. Printed books aren’t sellilng in bookstores and many of these are closing, facts which disturb those who like going to bookstores, browsing, finding the odd thing that you’be been looking for or that somebody recommended. If the bookstore as a place declines, maybe the library can take up the slack for the kind of readers who previously went to bookstores and now feel somewhat displaced. Prospero is an interesting blog, by the way. Put it on your list.
Harvard University Provost Steven Hyman commissioned a study group composed of faculty and other stakeholders to examine the way HU libraries go about their business. Recently, the group’s report was released and, it seems that if its conclusions are followed, the place will have to change, and I don’t mean maybe. When I first heard about this report, I was skeptical. I hear about something being “brought into the 21st century”, and I grab my hat and leave. Some of the other points in the summary also got my back up a little, for no very good reason really, when I think about it. I’m just crabby after a cold. But, I took the extra step and went the HUL web site and retrieved the report. But, I was wrong, and there’s no other way to put it. It seems that the Task Force went at the matter very thoroughly and the recommendations it issued seem prudent and sound, if at times a bit light on details, but that wasn’t the job. An implementation group will worry about the next part. HUL has 73 separate libraries, rather loosely coordinated, with a lot of differences in how each one is run and even in the kind of management systems and collection control technologies it buys. All this grew up over the years, by little and little. Harvard has trouble realizing its buying clout because individual libraries are considered separate units by publishers and vendors, so it doesn’t get the deals it might. Technologies should be standardized throughout the institution to the degree that is possible. Emphasis should be placed on a â€œuniversity wideâ€ collection policy, with less emphasis on acquisition and more on providing access. Here I will raise my hand. A major strength of HUL is the richness and variety of the collections, and de-emphasizing collection building to reinforce something else is not wise, in my opinion. But, theyâ€™re a long way from anywhere right now, and the implementation board will have to grapple with the specifics. I give them an A+
Philosophers of Antiquity were fascinated by the problem of “coming to be and passing away”, what they called “generation” and “corruption”. There are a number of essays with exactly that title. After a while, stuff goes bad. Why, and what happens to it? And, now that I think of it, how do you get “stuff” in the first place? Where does all the stuff come from? Well, nobody talks about that anymore, at least not in the Academy, and in Anglo-American schools of “analytic” philosophy. But there are places where “passing away” is taken very seriously and is the subject of much earnest brow-wrinkling and brainstorming. If we think about one kind of “passing away”, the loss of digital information, we encounter a very serious matter. So much of our current information is either prepared originally in electronic form, or has been moved from another medium. But, then what? Exactly. How long will the data remain fixed and recoverable? What do we do when we need to recover something that’s on a format or a medium no longer produced, or readable only by devices no longer manufactured? Today’s New York Times in the Science section, discusses the matter, and from a librarian’s point of view, it’s all rather disappointing, because the state of the question hasn’t advanced very much in the oh, say ten years that we have become aware of all this. The article lays out very clearly what the problem is, but the same could be said of any number of treatments published in the late 90s and early part of this century. As Mark Twain said: “nobody DOES anything about it”. Today’s piece uses the material donated to Emory University by the author Salman Rushdie, including two old-timey Apple computers. John Updike left a large number of floppy diskettes to the Harvard Library, which is trying to figure out what to do with them. Nobody has a good answer to this, so far at least. There seems to be a lot of finger-crossing and a large amount of cheery optimism that somehow, things will come out right. Ironies abound in this area. Publishers, for example, find themselves stuck with preservation problems they really don’t want to have. In the print era, they didn’t worry about it. But now the scholarly record is a major business asset, so they have to keep it in good shape. It’s meat and potatoes for them. And that’s just the publication itself. The mass of research data supporting the publication’s conclusion needs preservation and access also, and nobody knows how to do this either. I’ve even heard it said that the best thing to do is to print it out, on acid-free paper, and store in a building with people to keep an eye on it and help users find what they need….oh, wait!
The original Google Book Deal, aka The Deal, has been substantially modified. And that’s putting it mildly. Due to a large number of objections and counter-arguments, Google and the plaintiffs in the digitization suit have come to a new agreement. The American Library Association(ALA) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) have cooperated on the production of a quick reference guide to the provisions of the revised agreement. It’s called: A Guide for the Perplexed Part III: The Ammended Settlement Agreement, and it’s available as a PDF from the ALA web site. Go to to this site and look in the sidebar on the left side:
The author is Jonathan Band, a legal consultant engaged by the organizations to help foster understanding of the new Deal, by reducing it to more manageable form and eliminating some legalese. Eyes have been off the ball on the settlement, which at one time was the biggest thing ever, but matters are still proceeding and changes have been made to suit the DOJ and other interests. One big difference is the elimination of foreign books from the purview of the project. I feel like Billy May, the now deceased, but still ubiquitous pitchman for all kinds of products:”Here’s how to order now”…..
Google’s proposed deal to settle all claims resulting from class action suits brought against it by groups representing publishers and authors gained some support from the editors of The Economist recently. The paper (it calls itself a newspaper, even though there is nothing in its format to suggest that) outlined the elements of the proposal, and then reviewed some of the main arguments against it. Worries of cartel-like behavior were dismissed, as the writer insists that price gouging would chase away customers, so pricing has to be kept at some reasonable level. The piece leaves open the possibility of other reviews by regulators on other aspects, but says any drawbacks have to be balanced against the inherent benefits, namely, the provision of books, previously difficult to obtain, in enormous quantities to those who might want them. The European Commission is pondering the implications of the Google deal as a potential model for similar arrangements in its jurisdictions. Next month, the court in New York which must decide the case will open discussions, and we will see what we will see.
PS: Judge Denny Chin, who is to make the decision, was recently nominated by President Obama for promotion to the Federal Appeals Court bench. He’s also the judge who slammed Bernard Madoff with the 150 year sentence for his Ponzi scheme scam.
Three professional library associations have filed statements of interest with the court reviewing the settlement reached between Google and the authors’ and publishers’ groups suing it for copyright infringement. The American Library Association (ALA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) ask the court to supervise carefully the implementation of the agreement so that the greatest possible public benefit results from the deal. The agencies stressed the need to protect user confidentiality and a similar need to prevent the settlement from raising unfair barriers to competition. Interestingly, the three groups used their status as authors and publishers as grounds for their intervention, since the settlement on its own does not involve libraries.