The New-York Historical Society wants your photos of Time Square

Me in Times Square in October 2000 (too early for the NYHS project, but you get the idea).

As reported in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, the New-York Historical Society is inviting members of the public—tourists and locals, amateurs and professionals—to send in digital photographs of Times Square taken between Nov. 21, 2010 and March 31, 2011.

You can send in as many as you like. And don’t worry, they don’t have to be works of creative genius. Snapshots are welcome.

“We are not looking for masterpiece photographs,” said curator Marilyn Satin Kushner, who heads the N-YHS’s Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections. “We’re looking to document Times Square at this moment in time.”

The Society’s open call is intended in part to bring its photography collection up to date. Though the institution houses a strong collection of images of Times Square in decades past—the earliest from the 1860s—its holdings of contemporary images needs a boost.

“Today’s pictures are tomorrow’s history,” Ms. Kushner said. “In order to preserve history, we need help from the public.”

Complete submission guidelines are available at www.nyhistory.org

Is it really a question of free speech? Amazon removes pedophilia guide but defends selling book

A self-published guide giving advice to pedophiles that was on sale through online retailer Amazon stirred up controversy, with some threatening to boycott the website. The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct has now been removed from sale, but Amazon initially defended the listing, saying the company does not promote criminal acts but also avoids censorship. The book has since been removed, but not without first creating a cloud storm of controversy.

Was this really a question of free speech, though? The author of this book had every right to write it, I suppose, though the very idea turns one’s stomach. But does Amazon have a responsibility to carry every piece of published material it is asked to? No, and nor does it — in fact, Amazon has a “no porn” policy for the Kindle store.It’s not as if the company doesn’t already pick and choose what material they are willing to carry for sale. I question, though, where they’re drawing the lines.

Amazon won’t carry pornography, which is perfectly legal. That’s a moralistic decision on their part. Amazon will carry books that tout hate-mongering, such as those written by Holocaust deniers — and Amazon says that’s because they believe in free speech. (But not orgies or role-playing, apparently.) Well, it’s legal to be a hateful idiot as well. Amazon also apparently will carry instructional manuals for pedophilia, which last time I checked, is a crime. Free speech trumps aiding and abetting criminal activity, I gather.

But is it really about free speech, or just about profit? Amazon isn’t a publicly funded institution supported with tax dollars. They do not have a library’s mission to uphold free speech, nor do they have a governing body with the public’s best interest in mind. Amazon is a business, a profit-making business, and their decision to sell the ebook in question was a business decision, nothing more. They don’t apply ethics or morals in any consistent way, nor is their policy especially logical. Hey, it’s their party, and they can sell what they want to — but we have every right (possibly every responsibility) to complain.

And object the Internet did, almost en masse — something you don’t see every day. Amazon initially defended the book’s sale, then removed it, then reinstated it, and then finally removed it again. In the end, they caved to the web’s pressure, but not especially gracefully, and not in a way that is likely to earn them any public good will.

Re-Imagine: BECPL

Passing on this press release from the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System, for any local folks interested. I know I’m not alone in my concern for BECPL’s future in the face of next year’s massive budget cut, so this could be a good way to get all hands on deck, at least.

Community Meetings Announced To Create New Vision for Libraries & Services

The public is invited to share its ideas for the regional library system of the future through a series of public meetings, web surveys and focus groups; all part of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System’s newly launched Re-Imagine campaign.

“This is an exciting as well as a challenging time for the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library System,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, director of the Library System.  “We are beginning a process to re-imagine the library and create a new vision that will meet the needs of the entire community; a library that will not only accommodate the types of  services that are so heavily used currently, but one that will satisfy the needs of our users for innovative services in the years ahead.”

The Re-Imagine campaign, expected to take several months, is soliciting input from the public, business, corporate, services, cultural, senior, teen, urban and suburban sectors to determine how the library of the future in Erie County will look and what services it will offer. The process is being led by volunteer George T. DeTitta, Ph.D., Principal Research Scientist, Hauptman-Woodward Institute, and a citizen’s advisory committee as well as the consulting firm of Architectural Resources.  Participants will learn how libraries in other cities are successfully and creatively meeting the needs of library users in their communities, for today and tomorrow.

Upcoming Re-imagine Community Meeting dates, which are free and open to the public are:

Monday, November 8, 2010
5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Downtown Buffalo Central Library, One Lafayette Square, Bflo, 14203
Mason O. Damon Auditorium

Tuesday, November 9, 2010
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Erie Community College South, 4041 Southwestern Blvd, Orchard Park, 14127
Bldg. 5, Room 5102

Wednesday, November 10, 2010
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Erie Community College North, Tech Drive off of Wehrle Drive,  Williamsville,
Bretschger Hall, room B401

For more information, call 716-858-7144 or visit www.buffalolib.org

Are textbooks a thing of the past? Maybe paper ones are.

Kindles, Nooks and the iPad (perhaps especially the iPad): while e-reading is the hot new thing this year, it’s the textbook industry that most are predicting will see the biggest impact from e-book technology.

Compared with traditional textbooks, the iPad and other devices for reading digital books have the potential to save on textbook costs in the long term, to provide students with more and better information faster, and — no small matter — to lighten the typical college student’s backpack. (USA Today) At the same time, a robust online marketplace of used books and recent inroads by textbook rental programs give students more options than ever. The prospect of digital books and slow-but-steady growth in free online “open” content loom as developments that could upend the textbook landscape and alleviate the perennial problem of rising prices.

Back in August, Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Barnes & Noble, Inc.) announced an expanded textbook rental program; at the same time, the company offers thousands of eTextbooks and the NOOKstudy program.

Some say it’s the iPad that’s making all the difference. A shift to e-books within the textbook industry has been expected for some time, but it’s the arrival of the iPad that seems to have jump-started momentum in that direction. In a recent piece on NPR (The E-Textbook Experiment Turns a Page), Matt MacInnis of Inkling talks about why iPads surpass their paper counterparts: “We give guided tours through complex concepts,” he says. “So rather than seeing a picture of a cell dividing and then having a big, long caption, you can now tap … through all the different phases of cell division and see those things unfurl in front of you.” At Reed College, students tested Kindles last year (the results were lackluster and mostly unsuccessful; students reported understanding the course material less with Kindles than with paper textbooks) and are testing iPads this year. Most express positive feedback with the iPads, though they often cite the cost of purchasing one as prohibitive. Still, as MacInnis points out, when a printed textbook can cost hundreds of dollars alone, students may be swayed to purchase hardware that will allow them to download a chapter from that same textbook for $2.99.

MacInnis says he’ll be aiming straight for the students. He says, “I can absolutely guarantee you that the guy with the book version is looking over the shoulder — with envy — at the guy with the iPad version.” (NPR)

Openlibrary.org

From the Wall Street Journal:

“By GEOFFREY A. FOWLER

SAN FRANCISCO—Libraries are expanding e-book offerings with out-of-print editions, part of a broader effort to expand borrowing privileges in the Internet Age that could challenge traditional ideas about copyright.

Starting Tuesday, a group of libraries led by the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library, are joining forces to create a one-stop website for checking out e-books, including access to more than a million scanned public domain books and a catalog of thousands of contemporary e-book titles available at many public libraries.

And in a first, participants including the Boston Public Library and the Marine Biological Laboratory will also contribute scans of a few hundred older books that are still in copyright, but no longer sold commercially. That part of the project could raise eyebrows, because copyright law is unclear in the digital books arena. Google Inc., which is working on its own book scanning efforts, has been mired in a legal brouhaha with authors and publishers over its digital books project.

To read the books, borrowers around the world can download and read them for free on computers or e-reading gadgets. Software renders the books inaccessible once the loan period ends. Two-thirds of American libraries offered e-book loans in 2009, according to a survey by the American Library Association. But those were mostly contemporary imprints from the last couple of years—say, the latest Stephen King novel.

The Internet Archive project, dubbed Openlibrary.org, goes a step further by opening up some access to the sorts of books that may have otherwise gathered dust on library shelves—mainly those published in the past 90 years, but of less popular interest.”

Who can save our archives? Turning to the private sector for digitization.

This morning I was catching up on listservs and came across a link to this article in The Chicago Sun Times:

The Sun-Times Preserves Its Photo Archive by Selling It
Posted by Michael Miner on Thu, May 6, 2010

It’s worth a read. The title isn’t misleading, but there’s more to the story. The paper’s archive was sold off to a private individual, John Rogers, who is digitizing the entire collection. When finished:

The Sun-Times retains “all the intellectual property, all the copyrights,” Barron said. What’s more, Rogers is obliged to re-create the “entire library in digital searchable form,” and make it accessible to the Sun-Times. This means Rogers is doing for the Sun-Times something it couldn’t afford to do for itself but dearly wanted to. “If we could have pulled it off,” said Barron, “it would have taken years and years and years and millions of dollars.” So the deal was a “dream come true.” And far from surrendering its photo archive, he says, once it’s digitized the Sun-Times will be able to exploit it to tap a growing “aftermarket” for copies of old news photos.

The items that are appearing on eBay are duplicates, Rogers clarified. Or “things I don’t want”, he also said, which I found a little too vague. Still it’s hard to argue with what this man is doing to preserve a unique collection. That is, assuming he’s doing it right, as opposed to the sloppy way Google is digitizing books (in my humble opinion).

(Make sure to read the updates at the end of the article, with further information. I’m especially glad they clarified the bit about the library who was “keeping their photos in the basement”, making it sound like they were in old fruit boxes next to the washer, as opposed to being carefully stored in an archive.)

1B1T: One Book, One Twitter — reading American Gods

The Twitter-based crowdsourcing project, 1B1T (One Book, One Twitter), starts today — we’re reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. From Jeff Howe:

“I have a dream. An idea. A maybe great notion. Actually, as Auggie March might say, “I got a scheme.” What if everyone on Twitter read the same book at the same time and we formed one massive, international book club?… The aim with One Book, One Twitter is—like the one city, one book program which inspired it—is to get a zillion people all reading and talking about a single book. It is not, for instance, an attempt to gather a more selective crew of book lovers to read a series of books and meet at established times to discuss. The point of this—to the extent it has a point beyond good fun with a good book—is to create community across geographical, cultural, ethnic, economic, and social boundaries. ”

I know that some public libraries and universities do this; I seem to recall hearing that my own alma mater (Cornell) started a project like this one shortly after I graduated. I’m all for anything that encourages reading, sharing and discussion when it comes to books.

After discussion, rounds of nominations and voting (all of which I’m sort of not sorry to have missed, considering that getting a group of any size on Twitter together to agree on anything must have been like herding my cats away from the Squeaky Mouse), the book chosen was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I’m ashamed that I haven’t read it yet, and so I say, why not? My copy, duly ordered from Amazon (library was all out! This is good!), arrived yesterday and I’ve read this week’s first three chapters, so I’m ready to get started.

Interested? Read Howe’s blog post, quoted above, here. The Twitter hastag is #1B1T, and you can also follow @1B1T2010.

Found in the British Archives: Haitian Declaration of Independence, only copy

Once again, an archivist’s and scholar’s work saves the day. Ottawa grad student Julia Gaffield found what is believed to be the only surviving printed copy of Haiti’s Declaration of Independence while doing research at the British National Archives in London.

Grad student finds what’s believed to be only printed copy of Haiti Independence Declaration – latimes.com

Unearthing Haiti’s lost history

iPad on sale April 3rd

Just a quick update to say — the iPad will be available on April 3rd, which is a week later than the rumors. From Apple:

Apple® today announced that its magical and revolutionary iPad will be available in the US on Saturday, April 3, for Wi-Fi models and in late April for Wi-Fi + 3G models. In addition, all models of iPad will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK in late April.

Beginning a week from today, on March 12, US customers can pre-order both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G models from Apple’s online store (www.apple.com) or reserve a Wi-Fi model to pick up on Saturday, April 3, at an Apple retail store.

I’m happy there’s a pre-order option. I can see how it might be fun to camp out in line, but personally I want mine reserved for me.

(thanks to Steph for the info!)

That old book smell

Scientists have created a way to test the degradation level of paper books and documents, based on that “old book smell” we’re all familiar with.

Old books (ACS)

The test could help to preserve treasured books and documents

Sniff test to preserve old books

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

The key to preserving the old, degrading paper of treasured, ageing books is contained in the smell of their pages, say scientists.

Researchers report in the journal Analytical Chemistry that a new “sniff test” can measure degradation of old books and historical documents.

The test picks up and identifies the chemicals that the pages release as they degrade. This could help libraries and museums preserve a range of precious books. The test is based on detecting the levels of volatile organic compounds. These are released by paper as it ages and produce the familiar “old book smell”.

Entire article