All posts by Mirela Roncevic

Atlas Obscura highlights top digitization projects of 2017

Great post on Atlas Obscura on some of the best digitization projects—i.e., “amazing archival treasures” digitized in 2017—some unveiled for the first time this year, others expanded significantly with new content—including:

Read the full article for more information on each institution’s digitization efforts and growth in 2017 here.

Thousands of images from Gabriel García Márquez Archive Now Online via University of Texas at Austin

Most important part first: view the images here. The Archive, belonging to the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, was acquired in 2014 and has been opened since 2015. The digitalization, which, the university reports, took 18 months to complete, involved the efforts of archivists, students, librarians, and conservators, among others.

Included in the Archive are 27,000 images and 22 personal scrapbooks and notebooks, among them a memoir, screenplays, photos, etc.

From the university’s site:

The papers (English | Spanish) of Gabriel García Márquez, acquired by the Ransom Center in 2014, include original manuscript material, predominantly in Spanish, for 10 books, more than 2,000 pieces of correspondence, drafts of his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, more than 40 photograph albums documenting all aspects of his life over nearly nine decades, the Smith Corona typewriters and computers on which he wrote some of the twentieth century’s most beloved works, and scrapbooks meticulously documenting his career via news clippings from Latin America and around the world.

An inventory of the papers can be found in the following finding aids:

Read the full press release on the university web site here.

Cengage’s new e-textbook subscription service seems reasonable, but the question lingers: Who needs textbooks anymore?

As reported by Inside Higher Ed (IHE) on December 5, 2018, Cengage has just introduced a Netflix-like subscription service giving students access to e-textbooks (in Cengage’s digital portfolio) for one set price, regardless of how many materials they use.

According to IHE, the new service, called Cengage Unlimited, “will give students access to more than 20,000 Cengage products across 70 disciplines and 675 course areas for $119.99 a semester. For 12 months’ access the price is $179.99, and for two years the price is $239.99. For students taking three or four courses a semester with assigned course materials from Cengage, the subscription could offer hundreds of dollars of savings a year, versus buying or renting the products individually.” [Read the full article here.]

As stated on Cengage’s site, this is “the first-of-its-kind digital subscription that gives students total and on-demand access  to all the digital learning platforms, ebooks, online homework and study tools Cengage has to offer – in one place.”

For added context, over 2,000 institutions in the United States reportedly assign Cengage materials in more than 10 courses; some 1,400 institutions assign Cengage materials in more than 20 courses; and some 600 institutions assign Cengage materials in more than 50 courses.

Given these numbers and given the steep price of educational materials, a Netflix-like subscription for course materials sounds logical. But, as Nate Hoffelder points out in The Digital Reader, it really comes down to how many textbooks students need a year.

Speaking of ‘use,’ I’m using this opportunity to put the spotlight (back) on the utility of digital textbooks in an age of interactive learning and massive amounts of (quality, reliable) educational information available freely on any given subject all over the Internet. Questions arise (in my mind, at least): Continue reading Cengage’s new e-textbook subscription service seems reasonable, but the question lingers: Who needs textbooks anymore?

[Re]introducing the Freda app: DRM-free public domain titles in ePub format

Have you heard of the Freda (short for ‘Free Reader’) app? It is a free ebook reading app that allows users to read free ebooks and other content in epub format, but it can also read books in FB2, TXT and HTML formats.  The app is free but ad-supported, in the form of a single banner ad from the app’s home screen, which can be removed with a $1.99 in-app purchase.

Users can use Freda to read non-DRM epubs on any Windows platform and, as of last week, the app is also available for Android devices (in beta version). Freda comes with a number of classic public domain titles displayed on the homescreen and it includes links to several online sources, including, among others, Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks and Smashwords, where users go to select free ebooks to download them into their app collection.

In addition to being able to pull books from other web sites, the app can also access books on DropBox, SkyeDrive and removable storage cards.

This is how Chris Meadows described the app in a Teleread review published last year: “the real magic of Freda comes from the reading interface, because it has a clean interface, excellent layout control, and literally the most expansive reading options screen I’ve ever seen on any e-reader application. In a new Teleread post last week, David Rothman sheds light on some new features. Read it here here.

Clearly, the app is being developed slowly, with a great deal of feedback from users, and it continues to improve its functionalities.

No Shelf Required founder Sue Polanka gets an award for contribution to academic libraries in Ohio

Sue Polanka

It is such a pleasure to publish a post here on NSR about our very own Sue Polanka, the academic librarian from Wright State University (OH), who has been instrumental in transforming the coverage of ebooks in libraries and who, in fact, founded and launched No Shelf Required almost (hard to believe) ten years ago. The blog quickly became THE site on all things ebooks for librarians of all walks of life: public, school, and academic.

As noted on WSU’s site, Sue was honored by her peers for her contributions to the university and with academic libraries in Ohio. She received the Jay Ladd Distinguished Service Award from the Academic Library Association of Ohio (ALAO) at its annual conference on Oct. 27 in Columbus.

The award recognizes an individual who has promoted academic libraries and librarianship around Ohio and who has provided leadership in the promotion of the association through service, including committee membership, executive board office or interest group office.

“No one wins these awards alone. I couldn’t have accomplished all I have without the support of my colleagues at Wright State and so many talented librarians across Ohio and beyond,” Sue said.

An expert on ebooks, Polanka is the editor of several books and publications on ebooks including “No Shelf Required: E-books in Libraries,” “No Shelf Required II: The Use and Management of Electronic Books” and “E-Content in Libraries: Marketplace Perspectives.” She was also a columnist for EBook Buzz in Online Magazine and Off The Shelf in Booklist. She was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2011.

I had the privilege of collaborating with Sue many times and on several projects over the years (we edited a book together, worked on a quarterly journal together, etc.) and I consider her one of the most knowledgeable librarians around. I also consider her a dear friend.

It is an absolute honor to carry on the mission of No Shelf Required (which she entrusted me with two years ago) and to be part of its story.

Sue, congratulations. Well deserved.

Ebook Friendly celebrates 10 years of Kindle with an educational infographic

“Since 2007, Kindle made millions of people rediscover the joy of reading. But it’s not only e-readers that changed the way we read. It’s the entire ecosystem that includes ebooks, services, and innovations,” writes Piotr Kowalczyk on Ebook Friendly this week in a post that features an infographic listing the most significant events in the development of the Kindle, starting with the launch of the first-generation Kindle in 2007 and ending with the launch of Kindle Oasis 2 on October 31, 2017.

Note the quote at the very bottom of the infographic: “Ten years after the first Kindle, e-ink remains the best technology for the devoted e-reader” (Brian Heater).

We thank Piotr for sharing the infographic with the world and allowing us to post it on NSR.

Nearly 1500 high-resolution images of paintings and other works of art made available for free download by the Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia has been digitizing its vast collection of objects (4000 and counting) for some time now. It has recently made available for free download in the public domain nearly 1500 items in high resolution,  including paintings by impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern masters like Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Rousseau, Vincent Van Gogh, and Auguste Renoir.

Currently, digital images of more than 2,000 works of art in the Barnes Foundation’s collection are available to the public online. The Foundation encourages “use, enjoyment, and sharing of these images while respecting artists’ rights and copyright.” Each work is assigned a “rights statement” that helps communicate the Foundation’s assessment of the copyright status of the work (e.g., Public Domain, In Copyright, Copyright Undetermined).

According to its web site,  the “Public Domain” categorization is used when the Foundation believes a work of art to be free of known restrictions under copyright law. The Foundation makes those images available for high-resolution download “without charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial.”

Browse the Barnes Collection here.

A new study shows that students prefer to read digitally but learn more from print textbooks

From Insider:
“Teachers, parents and policymakers certainly acknowledge the growing influence of technology and have responded in kind. We’ve seen more investment in classroom technologies, with students now equipped with school-issued iPads and access to e-textbooks…Given this trend, teachers, students, parents and policymakers might assume that students’ familiarity and preference for technology translates into better learning outcomes. But we’ve found that’s not necessarily true….Our work has revealed a significant discrepancy. Students said they preferred and performed better when reading on screens. But their actual performance tended to suffer…”
Read the rest of the article on Insider here.

I [Still] Want My Wikipedia!

Over 11 years ago, I co-wrote and edited an article for Library Journal with three librarians (during my days as Senior Book Review Editor for the magazine), whom I asked to test Wikipedia as a bona fide research tool at a time most scholars were adamantly resisting it. This article was published some five years after Wikipedia first launched, which was in 2001. In the article, I Want My Wikipedia!, a younger version of me wondered, “But like any form of government, democracy faces a unique set of problems: once given the power (to edit), will people abuse it?”

To give the article more balance, I recruited three librarians and subject specialists whom I had worked with on other LJ-related endeavors—Barry X. Miller (pop culture), Karl Helicher (current affairs), and Teresa Berry (science)—and asked each to give their verdict on the source’s authenticity. After reading their lengthy reviews, I concluded that “while there are still reasons to proceed with caution when using a resource that takes pride in limited professional management, many encouraging signs suggest that (at least for now) Wikipedia may be granted the librarian’s seal of approval.” Continue reading I [Still] Want My Wikipedia!

New Bowker report reveals self-publishing ISBNs climbed 8 percent between 2015 and 2016

Just in from Bowker:

New Bowker report reveals maturation and stabilization in the self-publishing industry

Since 2011, International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) for self-published titles have climbed 218.33%, according to the latest report from Bowker. A total of 786,935 ISBNs were assigned to self-published titles in 2016; in 2011, that number was 247,210. Continue reading New Bowker report reveals self-publishing ISBNs climbed 8 percent between 2015 and 2016

Major plays and musicals come to Alexander Street

Just in:

Alexandria, VA (August, 2017) – Now students and researchers can be immersed in the work of award-winning writers, actors and directors in action, whenever and wherever they are. BroadwayHD is one of the most important distributors of current Broadway plays and musicals – distributed exclusively to libraries via the Alexander Street™ platform.

An essential collection for students and researchers of the performing arts, The BroadwayHD Collection provides a unique pathway to uncovering critical insights only available from experiencing live performance. Encompassing 25 award-winning live Broadway plays and musicals featuring such luminaries as James Earl Jones, Jane Krakowski, Ed Harris, Jennifer Garner and Kevin Kline, this content is exclusively available from Alexander Street for worldwide educational streaming. Curated especially for performing arts scholars, The BroadwayHD Collection is also invaluable for studies in drama, music, dance and literature. Continue reading Major plays and musicals come to Alexander Street

ODILO chosen by European Commission to help boost literacy in schools

​​​​​​​Just in:

Denver, CO, August 15, 2017 – ODILO, a global leader in the eBook industry, has been selected by the European Commission to provide their digital reading platform to European schools and universities.

Improving literacy and reading comprehension in schools has become one of the main challenges across Europe. With the support from the Commission, ODILO can now provide innovative and affordable solutions to assist schools and universities in their own reading plan implementations. Continue reading ODILO chosen by European Commission to help boost literacy in schools

Defending the honor of ebooks (and innovation)

Is the ebook a dead format? How eBooks lost their shine. The Reason Actual Books Are So Much More Memorable Than Ebooks. US Ebook Sales Decline. These are some of the headlines I’ve seen recently perpetuating the (suddenly popular) notion that ebooks are not ‘in’ anymore. That they have somehow failed us. That nothing compares to the reading of actual physical objects in the world. That the challenges the publishing industry has seen with ebooks (i.e., declining sales) point in the direction of a ‘format’ on the verge of dying.

Such articles aren’t only written by informed bloggers and journalists but also by industry professionals with significant experience in the publishing and library and information science markets, particularly those catering to consumers and public libraries. They exhibit a great deal of knowledge and sensible arguments about the challenges the publishing community (trade, in particular) has had with ebooks, focusing largely on the shortfalls of various business models to deliver revenue as predictable as revenue from print, the technological issues associated with ‘formats’  that haven’t been able to deliver a fully satisfying reading experience, and, not to be overlooked, the fierce competitiveness within the market itself, which has often resulted in ‘the powerful’  thriving even if their offerings were inferior to those by various start-ups (most of which perished in recent years).

In short, technology has not been able to ‘disrupt’ book publishing the way it has disrupted other industries in the not-so-distant past (e.g., music, news), and here we are at a crossroads again, asking some existential questions. Continue reading Defending the honor of ebooks (and innovation)

How enormous is Sci-Hub? And does its size signal the end of paywalled research?

According to biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein (University of Pennsylvania ) and his colleagues, who recently conducted a survey that investigated the impact of the web site and its repository, “Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles.  The self-proclaimed “first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers” (as stated on its homepage)  continues to grow rapidly while still facing legal issues.

Himmelstein’s study (published on July 20th on PeerJ Preprints) found that Sci-Hub’s reach is even greater for research papers protected by a paywall (instant access is provided for 85 percent of all papers published in subscription journals). In a conversation with ScienceInsider, Himmelstein said that the results of the study could mark ‘the beginning of the end” for paywalled research.

When asked if librarians would ever endorse Sci-Hub over paying for journal access, Himmelstein said: “I don’t think librarians would ever endorse it, given the legal issues of instructing someone to do something illegal. But in a way they already do. There are many libraries nowadays that can’t provide 100% access to the scholarly literature.”

When asked if there was anything publishers could do to stop new papers from being added to Sci-Hub, he said: “There are things they could do but they can really backfire terribly. The issue is, the more protective the publishers are, the more difficult they make legitimate access, and that could drive people to use Sci-Hub.”

Navigating Research: OUP’s whitepaper explores how users view and use reference sources

As stated in the summary of OUP’s newly released whitepaper titled Navigating Research, “this study explores users’ and librarians’ perspectives on the role of reference resources in research and teaching in today’s academic institutions. It examines how users seek contextual information and guidance for areas of scholarship as they conduct research, and how reference resources can support their work.”

Key findings include, among others:

  • recognition of ‘reference’ as a specific category is declining and users are not likely to identify ‘reference resources as those belonging to a distinct category
  • research needs of today’s researchers are moving away from basic factual information and terminology (for which free online sources are used)
  • resources offering guidance to a field of study retain appeal as a ‘bridge between introductory materials and specialized research publications”
  • resources offering guidance to a field of study are also used to support work in interdisciplinary fields
  • use of reference sources relies on their visibility and discoverability; this is likely to remain a challenge for publishers, librarians, and researchers

The whitepaper comprises three strands:

  • a review of existing literature
  • qualitative interviews with 16 librarians and 18 users (faculty and students)
  • a survey of 164 librarians

The full whitepaper may be downloaded here.

The [powerful] connection between digitalization, creativity and society

An interesting discussion is taking place in the Frankfurt Book Fair circles. This press release hints at the opportunities afforded to society through digitalization, To understand it fully, it helps to understand what THE ARTS+ is about.  It is “a fair, business festival and international meeting place for the culture and creative industries,” which launched in October 2016 during the Frankfurt Book Fair and will return in October 2017.

The goal is to exploit the potential of digitalization for creative content and to develop new business areas. International artists, opinion leaders and experts will present at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair innovative approaches from the fields of publishing, museums, architecture and design, brands and agencies.

Publishing professionals and librarians can draw inspiration from such discussions as they may lead them in the direction of new partnerships, collaborations, and initiatives with ebooks and econtent, particularly (but not limited to) those promoting visual arts. Continue reading The [powerful] connection between digitalization, creativity and society

Follett and EveryLibrary partner to advocate for K-12 Libraries

The focus of this new partnership between Follett (the largest provider of educational materials and technology solutions to PreK-12 libraries, classrooms, learning centers and school districts in the United States) and EveryLibrary (a 501c4 political action committee dedicated to building voter support for libraries) is to “return librarians to schools and expand funding equitably in districts.” Full press release below:

Follett announced today it is intensifying its support of K-12 school libraries and librarians by partnering with EveryLibrary, a Chicago-based political action committee dedicated to advocating for libraries and librarians at the state level. The Follett-EveryLibrary partnership will initially focus its work with school library associations in six states: Illinois, Washington, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida, and Mississippi.

Though each state effort will be different, according to EveryLibrary’s John Chrastka, the goals will be similarly focused to bring back school librarians to schools and expand funding equitably across schools and districts. Chrastka explained Follett’s support of the initiative will allow EveryLibrary to execute targeted outreach and activism in the targeted states, and help bring attention to pending bills in state legislatures, such as Pennsylvania and Nevada, which are calling for more librarians in each school. Continue reading Follett and EveryLibrary partner to advocate for K-12 Libraries

Great to see major publishers embrace alternative ebook models in public libraries, but let’s give credit where credit is due

This month, libraries across North America that work with hoopla digital will be able to provide access to some 15,000 (backlist) titles by HarperCollins, one of the ‘big five’ publishers that have resisted working with non-traditional ebook business models and adhered to the one-copy-one-user approach, resulting in less-than-ideal user experience for public library patrons. The news came the day before the official launch of the American Library Association conference in late June (see original press release here) and has already received ample coverage, much of which has revolved around statements that with this move HarperCollins was changing the game, breaking new ground, and giving libraries something exciting to look forward to.

While HarperCollins deserves credit for being the first of the Big Five (others include Penguin Random, Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) to go a step beyond the restrictive one copy-one user model (it was also the first to provide ebooks to libraries when others weren’t ready), HarperCollins isn’t the first publisher to embrace alternative models and certainly isn’t the one that is breaking new ground with this move. In fact, as many already know, hoopla has offered the cost-per-circulation model (which pays publishers per ‘loan’ instead of paying fixed fees to acquire titles) for a few years.

What’s more, other companies and other players in the ebook market have even gone beyond this model (e.g., Total Boox, Odilo) to provide instant, simultaneous access to ebooks in libraries and beyond. The fact that this move by HarperCollins is leading so many to call it game-changing is on some level a testament to how our industry (including publishers and libraries) views and values change and innovation. We often center our sentiments on what the most powerful do. Continue reading Great to see major publishers embrace alternative ebook models in public libraries, but let’s give credit where credit is due

Business of Books 2017: A new whitepaper gives valuable insight into the state of publishing worldwide and the impact of digital and self-publishing

The Business of Books 2017 is an annual publication from Franfkurter Buchmesse that gives insight into the trends related to book publishing (traditional and digital) worldwide, including markets in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

While the paper’s focus is on the publishing industry—particularly the trade side of it, and, unsurprisingly, the Anglo-Saxon influence of it—much insight can be gained here on many other aspects of the book industry by all who are in one way or another, directly or indirectly, involved with the book business, especially librarians, educators, independent authors, and various media companies that look to publishing (trade and educational)  to expand their offerings, particularly in the field of ebook distribution, audiobooks, multi-media, and gaming.

The white paper may be downloaded on the Book Fair’s web siteContinue reading Business of Books 2017: A new whitepaper gives valuable insight into the state of publishing worldwide and the impact of digital and self-publishing

NSR releases its summer 2017 journal issue — Ebook Purchasing in Academic Libraries: Key Issues and Emerging Trends

While the LIS industry has made great strides in improving how ebooks function in libraries the past few years, as any librarian in charge of ebook collection development can attest, ebooks are not always easier to manage than print books. They can, in fact, be more challenging. Many factors come into play and long gone are the days when librarians only needed to order particular titles based on interest or need communicated to them in advance by faculty or researchers.

In 2017, the universe of ebooks and econtent continues to grow at a dizzying rate, making it very challenging to keep up on a title-by-title basis; shrinking budgets and staff reductions have become the norm even in affluent institutions; and to remain competitive research institutions must rely on current scholarship that is constantly refreshed and available to them without restriction.

LIS journals that cover ebooks are overflowing with articles asking the same questions time and again: Can my library afford the new product or service? Will a particular method help streamline workflow? How much high-quality content is readily available? How much will my library be able to own in perpetuity? What will happen if my library doesn’t renew a subscription to a product that no longer serves its needs? Will the library have clear insight into patron usage? How well will the new product integrate into the library’s existing catalog? And, not to be overlooked: who is the content provider and what is its credibility in the library market?

This series of articles aims to elucidate some of the ebook challenges librarians in academic institutions (of all sizes) have had to grapple with in recent years in their ongoing efforts to support research. The goal here is to discuss key issues surrounding ebook purchasing and clarify some misconceptions that still persist within the industry, not only about the nature of ebooks (as explained by Frederick) but, more important, about the ebook business models offered to libraries. These models continue to evolve, of course, as librarians, publishers, and aggregators adjust their expectations and learn from experience.

Read or download the full issue of No Shelf Required’s journal on Ebook Purchasing in Academic Libraries: Key Issues and Emerging Trends here.

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