Archived entries for mpow

First BHL e-book experiments

Last week the Internet Archive announced that all their online books were now available in ePub format as well, which meant that the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) books were too. Nice when you get stuff like that for free. Anyway, I went and downloaded one of MPOW’s contributions, a particular favorite of mine, The Apples of New York. Since all of IA’s ebooks are in the open ePub format, they couldn’t be read on my Kindle without first converting it to .azw format – I used Lexcycle’s Stanza for this, but you could as easily use calibre, an open source app which has a multitude of great features. I loaded it on my Kindle, opened a copy of the ePub in the Stanza app on my iPhone, and tried reading it in the Stanza desktop app on a Mac.

Screenshots below:

Stanza desktop:

mac stanza book.jpg

Stanza iPhone:




The books have some problems – there are OCR issues, but for the most part they’re remarkably readable. This is a great development, and makes the BHL material even more accessible, an important part of the consortium’s mission.

Head smack interfaces

WARNING: A long, rambly exploration of the state of computing with no real conclusion…:

It takes two seconds to learn pinch-to-zoom, but if you handed an iPhone to someone who had never seen one and said “zoom in on this web page”, they’d have no clue how to do it. They would likely not even know it was possible to zoom unless you had told them.

However, once you showed them, it would immediately seem natural, and it’s hard to conceive of a more efficient way to perform zooming with human hands. Like the Newton’s “new note” separator, it provides functionality with no screen space required for controls, and provides a tactility that is extremely gratifying at what must be a very low level of the brain.

The benefit of pinch-to-zoom over previous zooming methods is so immediately apparent that it justifies the learning curve. That the learning curve is extremely small also helps. I find it fascinating that a huge portion of iPhone usability training is done via the TV ads, pre-sale. They’re both marketing and instruction.

Very interesting article and a good riposte to the idea that interfaces always need to be immediately and completely obvious-sometimes also called the “naive user” interface. Interfaces need to be consistent, progressively rewarding, and easy to discover. Doesn’t need to be completely called out from first glance, but does want to be apparent rather than obscured.

We have been trying to strike a balance at work between the need to describe and desire to not make a brochureware site. We offer a great number of resources and are working on presenting them clearly while not overwhelming the user. I’m going to send the article around. Read it.

(Via ~stevenf.)

Free the teeming millions (of bits)

Free the Linked Data 4:

[I should have blogged about this general thought before I jumped ahead in my previous post with a URI pattern proposal. It is more important for people to embrace these principles than it is to mindlessly buy into various constraint models.]

In Linked Data, Tim Berners-Lee points out that “It is the unexpected re-use of information which is the value added by the web.” Four rules are given to facilitate unexpected re-use:

  1. Use URIs as names for things
  2. Use HTTP URIs so that people can look up those names
  3. When someone looks up a URI, provide useful information
  4. Include links to other URIs, so that they can discover more things

Despite the “Linked Data” analysis, the principle of unexpected re-use and these four rules can be applied to HTTP in general without an RDF basis.

I try to keep the ‘unexpected re-use of information’ in mind. You can’t even begin to anticipate every possible use of your data people can come up with. So the best thing to do is get out of their way as much as possible and give them the access to create something new and undreamed-of. Be generous in what you provide and unfettered in what you expect.

(Via Q6.)

Monster truck info

We have recently begun sending Biodiversity Heritage Library materials to the Internet Archive scanning pod at NYPL. We’re currently trying to get the workflow in place, and so we recently purchased one of these Samson Book Carts to send stuff down. They’re perfect in a lot of ways: rugged, collapsible, huge capacity. Unfortunately, it’s also too tall (by about 4″) to fit in the van we’re using to transport books. I’ve been researching big book carts to no avail – if anyone knows of one similar, but a little shorter, than the samson I’d appreciate knowing about it. Thanks. Isn’t it interesting how 90% of digitization works out to be logistics?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tracking the wily changes

I was one of those Mac greybeards (though I lost the Classic fetish, natch; I don’t enjoy spectacular crashes) whose formative word processing time was spent using Microsoft Word 3.1, maybe the best Mac word processor ever made. Mac Word has gone the usual MS application route of feature bloat, making the easy excruciating, and Total World Format Domination (including what appears to be the deliberate trashing of backwards compat in the newest Windows versions; is this actually true?)

So I was an early convert to Nisus Writer, which in its Classic versions offered some heady geek-level features (Perl for macros! Regexp!) but still could just straight-up open up a vein. I’ve followed them over to Express and now Pro, but there is one goddamn feature that’s keeping me from ditching the Big Bankcode Font W for good.

That is Track Changes. I desperately need Track Changes. We collaborate the living hell out of a document here at MPOW, and that means we TRACK CHANGES. To within an inch of a file’s life.

Nisus has been promising this feature, or least acknowledging the lack thereof, for a good couple years now at least, by my reading of their support forums. I’d like to see it move up on their priority list. I don’t want to have to buy YET ANOTHER Mac wp. Mellel didn’t do it for me, NeoOffice does some nice stuff but is heir to the death by a million small cuts that is OpenOffice on the Mac, and I don’t want to spend my sucker early adopter iPhone Apple Store credit for iWork (or is it iHardlyWorking?) Come on, Nisus, move it up.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

OCR services?

As part of a IMLS grant we’re working on, I need to find a company that will OCR and double-key about 165k entries from the Index to American Botanical Literature. The entries are spread over a number of volumes. I already know about Digital Divide Data – they were the company we had originally approached about this project, but that was a while ago, and if there’s any other companies people know of, I’d appreciate hearing from you. Thanks!

ALA: what the hell is it?

I had originally written this as a comment on kgs’ ALA: what is to be done? post, but since it kept getting longer, I thought I’d post it here instead.

First, some background: I graduated lib school in 93, worked in software/web development till 2005. Started in a systems librarian job in April of last year.

That said, ALA makes me nuts. A few random things come to mind:

1. I joined ALA at a student rate when I was taking classes towards possibly getting school media specialist certification. (Dodged that bullet.) Despite contacting them to tell them I was no longer a student and even though I now pay non-student (read: full) membership fees, every single piece of mail they send me (at MPOW, no less) is addressed to “John Mignault, student.” This irritates me anew every time I see it.

2. The organization is enormous. I find it byzantine and incomprehensible, and I’ve programmed in PowerBuilder. There are too many fee-requiring sub-associations, divisions, councils, round tables, kaffeeklatsches, cells, and jamborees. There is too much crap to wade through, and most people don’t have the contacts that would make navigating the oranization easier.

3. WRT #2, it’s insane that so many publications (I am looking at you, Library Technology Reports) are outrageously expensive, and not included in a LITA membership. 63 bucks for a single issue of a magazine? I work in a botanical library, fer Chrissakes. We’re strapped enough as it is – I can’t ask them to pay some outrageous sum of money for these publications, and I’m already into ALA for enough dough as it is. Why isn’t this stuff online? How can anyone take ALA seriously with regards to Open Access when they act like Elsevier?

4. When I saw the absolute fetish librarians have for listservs (three letters. R. S. S), I decided I better get my subscriptions out of my personal gmail account and into another for mailing lists only. I’ve been trying to unsubscribe from LITA-L for a couple weeks now, only to continually get errors from the lisetserv processor.

5. Elections. ALA bugs the crap out of me to vote in elections. They send me postcards. They send me e-mails. Great, now I can vote for a bunch of people who I’ve never heard of whose position papers require a much greater degree of knowledge about the organization than I have. I can go by the biblioboogersphere, but they say things like “Vote for J. Random Librarian, because he/she *gets it.*” Well, I’m glad someone does, but I need more, you know?

6. Just read this passage from kgs’ post:

Council elects an Executive Board, which theoretically runs ALA, but delegates to the Executive Director of ALA, currently Keith Fiels (a good guy, but he also isn’t going to steer ALA anywhere EB isn’t taking it — and that’s correct behavior). Council nominates and elects EB. With a majority on Council, you theoretically have control of ALA (since you can elect the EB). There are just under 200 Councilors, so elect a slate of 100 Councilors and you have a majority. Yet it’s not that simple, either, because as the ALA website notes, “Council, the governing body of ALA [is] comprised of 183 members: 100 elected at large; 53 by chapters; 11 by divisions; 7 by roundtables; and 12 members of the Executive Board.” It’s not impossible that a slate couldn’t include chapter, divisional, or roundtable candidates, but it would require more effort, and since not all Councilors are elected at the same time, you can’t just run 100 at-large candidates. More likely than electing Councilors from chapters and divisions is first, to build a reform Council over several years, and second, that a strong Council EB slate would pick up additional votes outside the original reform slate.

My head hurts.

Anyway, that’s a start.

Book scanners

MPOW is struggling towards getting digitization off the ground, and one of the things I’ve been looking at are book scanners. We often scan rare or fragile (Italian) material, so smooshing down a book onto a flatbed isn’t acceptable. I was surprised at how few vendors there are to choose from. There’s Kirtas, which makes a high-end machine that can do up to 2400 pages an hour. I saw one demonstrated at the BookExpo at Javits last week, and they’re very cool. The book is held in a cradle, and the pages are turned by means of a puff of air. It works quite well, and it scores very high on the Neat-O Scale. It’s very expensive, though, and we don’t have the necessary volume of material to be scanned to justify buying one of these. We’ve done some outsourcing to Kirtas, and been pleased with the results, but it’s overkill for us.

Then there’s the Atiz BookDrive DIY. Most book scanners have the same basic setup: a scaffolding encloses a platen for the book along with mounts for 2 digital cameras pointed at either page of the book. Atiz sells you the scaffolding and lets you pick the cameras yourself, thus the DIY. Atiz also makes something called the BookDrive, which supposedly enables fully unattended scanning. It’s a fully enclosed unit (reminded me of a toaster oven) that turns the pages of the book via an arm with a mild adhesive on it. It gives me the willies to even consider that.

I love the Scribe scanners that the Internet Archive is using, at least in part because I agree so strongly with the ideology and goals of the project, but again, we don’t have the volume to qualify for an on-site Scribe, and we will probably be doing some outsourcing to NYPL’s Scribe station later this year.

We already use a Minolta book scanner, and the Indus (ours are branded BookEye,) so I know about those already. But I haven’t really been able to find anything else, and you’d think there’d be more out there. Anyone know of any others?

Copyright © 2004–2009. All rights reserved.

RSS Feed. This blog is proudly powered by Wordpress and uses Modern Clix, a theme by Rodrigo Galindez.