Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Part three of the complications surrounding e-books, this time focusing specifically on the accessibility--or lack thereof--of e-readers. This is a particularly interesting angle that I hadn't considered:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reminder: Kagan Resources

Just a reminder, the Law Library of Congress has an excellent bibliography of Kagan resources, both selected and web.

Two other sites that offer resources:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Medieval Portraiture Book Gets Top Prize for Best Book in Intellectual History

I'm so eager to get hold of a copy of this book; I am very drawn to accounts of intellectual history that incorporate the arts:

"Associate Professor of Art History Stephen Perkinson's book The Likeness of the King: A Prehistory of Portraiture in Late Medieval France (University of Chicago Press, 2009) has just won the Morris D. Forkosch Prize For The Best First Book in Intellectual History from the Journal of History of Ideas. The book upends several well-established theories on the evolution of portraiture, and takes readers through a fascinating tour of late Medieval history, literature, science, philosophy—ultimately using the face to enter the subtle, very human underpinnings of court life."

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The title may sound a bit frivolous, but the article is certainly not. From the UK's Guardian: Everything you need to know about the Internet. An article that provides perspective both on where we've been and where we're going:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Expressing a typically (for the ALA) utopian perspective, a writer for ALA TechSource attempts to draw an analogy between the growth of ebooks and the history of shaving in a posting titled "A Close Shave." Under ordinary circumstances I would summarize the article's contents, but it has significant humor value and is worth partially reproducing:

"When personal computers first hit the mainstream, they presented an interesting opportunity for libraries. All of [a] sudden, it was possible to easily separate the content from the content-bearing device. Unlike printed books, microfilm, LP records, and other content-bearing devices, with computers it is easy to move content onto and off of the device...Portable computing devices, such as the PDA and MP3 player, ran with this concept of separating the content from the content-bearing device. The apotheosis to date may be the portable eReading device, which allows you to purchase and download a book in less than a minute from most places.

Let's consider an analogy. In the good old days, when men wanted a shave, they often went to a barber shop. As far as I can tell, it was a bundled, one-price service. The barber charged one price for the complete process of shaving the customer. With that one price, the barber had to cover all his costs: straightedge razor, strop, cream, hot water, towel, rent, chair, lights, heat, his time, etc.

Then along came the safety razor and the social shift to shaving at home...This probably was a considerable convenience to most men, and it may have been more economical, but notice that it also unbundled the components of shaving. Now men had to purchase the shaving handle, the disposable razor blades, and shaving cream...usually separately. The towels, hot water, light, and heat were separate purchases too. Over time, electric razors...added to the growing list of unbundled face-shaving options."

(Source: "A Close Shave,"

By contrast, the Librarian in Black avoids the history of depilatory practices and launches right in to her own detailed experiement with e-book use, relating her prolonged frustrated efforts to make use of her library's ebook collection. In the time it took her to discover the multiple mutual incompatibilities between her various devices and e-book supplier digital resource management systems, she could have read the first half of War and Peace.

I was especially interested to read her post not only because it provides a rare, critical perspective on e-books, but also because I've had similar frustrations attempting to use e-books at various libraries. It's worth your time to read her account, because it expresses in clear detail the problems that make library e-book collections so frustrating to use. Librarians, take note. As usual, we need to demand more from vendors and content-providers. In the words of the great Tim Gunn, "Just make it work!"

And if you don't read any of this, do yourself a favor and look at this cartoon depiction of the ninth circle of ebook download hell... because a picture really does paint a thousand words and it applies to so many types of program-download experiences. Everyone can relate.

I won't create a spoiler by revealing the ultimate source of download salvation for the cartoon's hero, but let's just say that it doesn't, unfortunately, involve a library. (And no, BitTorrent is not a library.)

The truth can be painful, but Librarian in Black does it well for this topic.


The academic publishing industry, like the music industry (and we know that battle is already lost) is determined to preserve the kind of control over its product that allows for often usurious pricing schemes.

Unfortunately, the growth of open access publishing and institutional repositories has the potential to make publishers superfluous. But you can't blame the industry for trying to hold on to a system that has been so profitable. The latest salvo has been taking place at Georgia State, and involves e-reserves:

And no, I am not expressing my inner Marxist by rejecting the reality of copyright and private property.

But we all know that publishers take material produced by employees of universities (professors), repackage it, and then sell it back to universities for often rapacious sums. There is value added by the publishers, but not at levels commensurate with most publisher pricing schemes.

And since self-publishing, institutional publishing, and open access publishing are so accessible, it may be that we're seeing the publishing industry white-knuckling it at this point, clinging to a system that is on its way out. It was nice (for them) while it lasted.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


No one wants to think about heavy subjects in the summer--certainly not in all this heat. But we must persevere in preparation for the semester(s) to come.

Here is an excellent article from the Chronicle, complete with a number of concrete suggestions, about the all-important subject of plagiarism:

Friday, June 11, 2010


With thanks for George Atchley of Samford's Christenberry Planetarium:

"A new moon on June 12 will help observing the first visit of comet McNaught (C/2009 R1) to the inner solar system, complete with a 100-million-mile “close encounter” with Earth. Search the northeastern sky before sunrise (use binoculars if possible) for a diffuse circular patch of light gliding through the constellation Perseus. A small telescope will reveal a comet with a green head and a long, wispy tail pointing north. Although currently at the threshold of naked eye visibility, by the end of the month McNaught could brighten to about the same magnitude as the stars of the Big Dipper, but this weekend offers great viewing because of its darkness. "


The Genealogists are Coming! The Samford Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), June 13-18, provides an educational forum for the discovery, critical evaluation, and use of genealogical sources and methodology through a week of intensive study led by nationally prominent genealogical educators. The faculty is composed of outstanding nationally known genealogy educators.

Initiated in 1962, the institute regularly enrolls over 200 students from around the country. Samford librarians and library staff are integral to the organization and management of IGHR, so if you visit the Samford campus or library next week, you will see us doing everything from setting up and serving breaktime fare to driving golf carts. Join us in welcoming our genealogists to the Samford campus!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


This collection provides over 5,000 news sources from local, in-state, national and international newspapers, broadcast transcripts, newswires, news blogs, web-only and video content. The library's trial runs through July and is available on and off campus:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

WolframAlpha Computational Knowledge Project

The WolframAlpha Computational Knowledge Project is truly amazing. Click here to watch a demonstration.