Tag Archives: humour

5 Reasons Why Print Books Don’t Cut the Mustard

(With apologies to Wired.)

No-one can dispute that print books have been pretty popular over the last several centuries. But really they are fundamentally flawed. Unless they can precisely duplicate the experience provided by an e-reader they’re doomed, because all people want the exact same reading experience and never compromise on some criteria in order to fulfill others.

Let’s skip a page of boring context and cut to the bulletpoints that are the only things anyone cares about anyway.

1. An unfinished print book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it.

You know the drill. You pick up a print book, start reading it, get distracted and leave it next to the sofa. Next day, when your eye’s caught by another print book on the wooden bookshelf and you open its cover, the print book doesn’t display the page of the print book you were reading yesterday to remind you where you were at. Two weeks later you’ve got a dozen half-read print books in a dozen obscure locations of your house (some of them with scraps of paper marking the point you left off – that’s right, even if you pick up the same print book you were reading yesterday, it won’t automatically remember your page number). Eventually you realise you’re never going to finish any of them and in a tidying frenzy you dump them all back on your wooden bookshelf.

2. You can’t keep your print books all in one place.

Print books on the wooden bookcase, beside your bed, in your handbag, at work, in the car, at the physical library – it’s impossible to keep track of them all. And if you finish reading a print book at the start of a commute, you can’t just open it again to choose and start reading a new print book, because all the other print books are at home, on the wooden bookshelf.

Worse yet, you can’t keep your print books all in two places. There’s no app for syncing a print collection between two locations. If your print books are on the wooden bookshelf at home, they can’t be in your handbag at the same time.

To add credibility and pathos to my opinions, I shall here mention a friend who lost access to her house post-earthquake and with it her entire collection of print books. When she got the occasional half hour to retrieve items she had to rapidly choose which to spend her time rescuing. If they’d been electronic they’d have been in her iPhone all along — and if she’d lost that, she could have retrieved her computer on which they’d have all been synced.

3. Notes on paper margins are pointless

You spend hours reading a print book and making ink notes in its paper margins and what have you got at the end of it? All that useful information is still stuck inside the print book. You can’t click and drag it into your word processor where you actually need it. You could cut and paste it and make a nice collage, but even librarians who appreciate marginalia are likely to look askance at that.

4. Print books are priced as disposable, but aren’t marketed that way.

I talked with someone today who had some print items he no longer wanted and wanted to donate them to the library. The library didn’t want them and I couldn’t think of any library or used bookstore that would. The best thing to do would be to throw them in the recycling bin. But he hesitated, and I found even I hesitated to make this suggestion in so many words. Because we’ve developed this utterly idiotic idea that the print book, each with runs of thousands or millions, is nevertheless a priceless artefact whose destruction is a kind of sacrilege.

5. Print books can’t be used as a clock.

Look at the bottom of your print book and you won’t see the time – only a page number. You can’t go back to the title page and open up a game of sudoku. Storing too many polaroids in it makes the pages bulge. If you want to check a definition, you have to fetch an entirely different print book. The only thing a print book does is let you read that one novel.

Well, not quite the only thing. It does make nice kindling.

Links of Interest 4/11/09

New Zealand Electronic Text Centre has posted a list of online texts for current courses at VUW.

The Dept of Internal Affairs has launched Government datasets online, a directory of publicly-available NZ government datasets (especially but not exclusively machine-readable datasets).

Complementary Twitter accounts:

  • APStylebook (Sample: Election voting: Use figures for totals and separate the large totals with “to” instead of hyphen.)
  • FakeAPStylebook (Sample: To describe more than one octopus, use sixteentopus, twentyfourtopus, thirtytwotopus, and so on.)

Information Literacy
There was a lot of interest at and after LIANZA09 about the Cephalonia Method of library instruction (basically, handing out pre-written questions on cards to students to ask at appropriate times during the tutorial). A recent blogpost by a librarian worn out from too many tutorials wonders “what if the entire class session consisted of me asking students questions? What if I asked them to demonstrate searching the library catalog and databases?”

Scandal du jour
A document by Stephen Abram (SirsiDynix) on open source library management systems (pdf, 424KB) appeared on WikiLeaks. The biblioblogosphere saw this as evidence of SirsiDynix secretly spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) against their open-source competition. Stephen Abram replied on his blog that it was never a secret paper and he’s not against open source software but it’s not ready for most libraries. Much discussion followed in his blog comments and on blogs elsewhere; Library Journal has also picked up the story.

For fun
Also at Library Journal, The Card Catalog Makes a Graceful Departure at the University of South Carolina – rather than just dumping it the library is hosting events such as a Catalog Card Boat Race and What Can You Make With Catalog Cards?

Things Librarians Fancy.


Links of Interest 20/10/2009

A map of LIANZA09 participants – purple for attendees, pink/orange for invited speakers, yellow for vendors.

Widgets and other neat free stuff
Gale Widgets aren’t new but are nicer than ever. If I understand correctly, the PowerSearch widget searches across all Gale databases subscribed to by one’s institution. To create a widget use our location ID “canterbury” – the javascript code provided can then be pasted into LibGuides. (New box -> Rich text -> Add text -> plain text editor -> paste)

SpringShare gives instructions for adding WolframAlpha’s improved search widget to LibGuides.

Elsevier provides all their journal covers free. (“These cover images may be used in systems in which Elsevier material is offered to end users. Unauthorized use and/or modification of these images is strictly prohibited.”) Perhaps could be used in a future generation of our catalogue to complement book cover images? If you just want a single image to promote a journal on LibGuides, replace the number in this link with your journal’s issn: http://www1.elsevier.com/inca/covers/store/issn/00016918.gif

Plates from Buller’s Birds (digitised on a Creative Commons license).

Text message reference
Penny Dugmore writes about Unitec’s launch of a text reference service, and Elyssa Kroski’s Library Journal column on Text Message Reference: Is It Effective?. Oh, and just in: a summary about a recent presentation on text reference, with stats on libraries offering it and more links.

Library humour
A library-themed filk of Gilbert and Sullivan’s I’ve got a little list.

Range guide humour (alas, it’s harder to get this effect with LC…)

Links of interest 19/6/09

A bit of humour: “Dispatches from a Public Librarian“, told Twitter-style (so may make most sense if you scroll to the bottom and read upwards).

Springshare have launched new LibGuides features, including co-owners for guides (will display both co-owners’ profiles on the guide) and moderation of user-submitted links.

Newly-discovered-by-me Twitter users include Lincoln University and Humanities NZ. Increasing numbers of NZ public libraries have accounts.

Someone’s created a “search engine taste test” where you type in your keywords and it searchs Bing, Google, and Yahoo simultaneously. You can then vote for the best set of results and it will reveal which search engine it’s from.

A Swedish university library has created a simple javascript bookmarklet people can add to their browser so that if they’re browsing the web (via google or links recommended by friends) and find themselves on a subscription-only page, they can click the bookmarklet to reload the page via ezproxy instead of having to navigate back to the library website and find it again. A librarian from there suggests other libraries should “Steal the JavaScript from this page or write your own.