Category Archives: Technology

E-Books Through HarperCollins

HarperCollins Publisher LogoThe e-book world was shaken up by recent policy changes from HarperCollins regarding their e-book collections.  In February and March, messages from various library-related email started to fly that a major book publisher, HarperCollins, had placed a limit on the number of times (twenty-six times) an e-book could be viewed before it would be withdrawn from a library’s electronic collection.  After this number is reached, libraries and consumers would then be obligated to purchase the e-book again.

Many individual librarians have threatened to boycott HarperCollins if they do not change this new policy.  The American Library Association’s President, Roberta Stevens, issued an official press release that criticized HarperCollins for the decision, and encouraging the publisher to work with libraries to develop contemporary policies that are in the best interest of publishers, libraries, readers, and authors alike.

It is understandable that publishers want to make money from selling books, and e-books are considerably different than their print counterparts.  They do not take up valuable shelf space, they do not physically wear down as traditional books do, they do not cost as much to produce and distribute (see former post on this topic), more people have mobile devices to access e-books than ever before and are accessing e-books (see former post on this topic).

Part of the issue is the timing of this new policy.  The decision by HarperCollins comes at a time when library resources are scare, and librarians are upset that their money-strapped institutions will be asked to pony up more money for a book that they already purchased, especially without first being consulted. I also recognize that the e-book industry is changing and growing very rapidly, and that publishers want to harness control of this growth before it gets out of hand.

Also, during economic hard times, print books can last much longer than 26 uses if there is the need (and if ever there is a need, it is now).  Then ask why place a limit that exists (artificially) for print books on e-books which have extremely different limits to time and physical space (or access).

From the amount of complaints and national attention (international really) against this new pricing scheme, one should ask if this new policy is really worth pursuing for HarperCollins.  The publisher might make more money in the short-term, but may tarnish their good-standing relationship with libraries and the hard-working tax paying public that support libraries.  Hopefully, this decision does not backfire on the publisher, and that HarperCollins will visit this controversial policy at a more appropriate time.

Below is an email from Mr. Josh Marwell, President of Sales at HarperCollins Publishers.  This was distributed publicly on the Libs-Or email list:

10 East 53rd Street
New York
, N.Y  10022-5200
Telephone: 212 207-7000
Fax: 212 207-7909

HarperCollins Publishers

March 1, 2010

HarperCollins is committed to libraries and recognizes that they are a crucial part of our local communities. We count on librarians reading our books and spreading the word about our authors’ good works. Our goal is to continue to sell e-books to libraries, while balancing the challenges and opportunities that the growth of e-books presents to all who are actively engaged in buying, selling, lending, promoting, writing and publishing books.

We are striving to find the best model for all parties. Guiding our decisions is our goal to make sure that all of our sales channels, in both print and digital formats, remain viable, not just today but in the future. Ensuring broad distribution through booksellers and libraries provides the greatest choice for readers and the greatest opportunity for authors’ books to be discovered.

Our prior e-book policy for libraries dates back almost 10 years to a time when the number of e-readers was too small to measure. It is projected that the installed base of e-reading devices domestically will reach nearly 40 million this year. We have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors. We are looking to balance the mission and needs of libraries and their patrons with those of authors and booksellers, so that the library channel can thrive alongside the growing e-book retail channel.

We spent many months examining the issues before making this change. We talked to agents and distributors, had discussions with librarians, and participated in the Library Journal e-book Summit and other conferences. Twenty-six circulations can provide a year of availability for titles with the highest demand, and much longer for other titles and core backlist. If a library decides to repurchase an e-book later in the book’s life, the price will be significantly lower as it will be pegged to a paperback price point. Our hope is to make the cost per circulation for e-books less than that of the corresponding physical book. In fact, the digital list price is generally 20% lower than the print version, and sold to distributors at a discount.

We invite libraries and library distributors to partner with us as we move forward with these new policies. We look forward to ongoing discussions about changes in this space and will continue to look to collaborate on mutually beneficial opportunities.

To continue the discussion, please email library.ebook@HarperCollins.com

Self-Driving Cars by Google

 

Google's secret car project (image source: NY Times)

 

If you live around San Francisco or Los Angeles, you may have seen one of seven unique self-driving Google Prius cars pass by.  While these are not Transformers or futuristic cars from the Minority Report, but they can drive around without humans (although these tests have included a human driver and software engineer as backup).

According to the NY Times, these seven cars have logged an impressive 1,000 miles without human intervention, and over 140,000 miles with very little human assistance.  And the Official Google Blog states that the goal of this project is to “help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use,” of which “1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents [according to the World Health Organization].”

Some people are already criticizing Google for branching into the auto industry and other industries, such as associates from the San Francisco Chronicle (SF Gate 1 & 2).  Two of the arguments include how Google should focus its energy & resources into its core business of searching instead of deviating into new areas.  Google is also using the “old-fashioned” research & development models (R&D) of large corporations to innovate instead or relying on contemporary research and investment methods such as the “Silicon Valley” which uses private investors for funding new projects.

Supposedly, the Silicon Valley model is more efficient, but I don’t follow this logic.  There are many ways to innovate, and in terms of incentive for further creation & development of a product, why limit yourself to one model if others work comparatively well too? Also, this venture is in its early infancy, so time will tell whether Google does spin-off a new company separate from its parent Google corporation.

As for Google branching into new industries, I think the more competition the better.  It’s possible that if Google strays too far from its core business, what it has historically done really well in, that the company could suffer financial setbacks or stagnate their innovative success. However, it is a noble goal for Google to help save lives with this new technology, and it is very welcome (although a little scary to trust technology with your life–traveling at high speeds with risk of computer malfunctions).

However, I think that Google is looking at traffic patterns & accidents from an information perspective.  Of the tens of thousands of fatal car crashes are reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration each year, many due to human error and could be avoided. Technology already exists in some car models, such as backup cameras in the Toyota Prius, that should be included in all new cars as standard features.  With “robotic” cars, much of the human error can be removed from the equation.

 

DARPA Grand Challenge (image source: Wikipedia)

 

Keep in mind that driverless cars have already been created by various organizations over the years.  Some have competed in the Department of Defense’s DARPA Grand Challenge. The army could employ this technology to deliver food, supplies, or perhaps a bomb through dangerous destination without having to put human life in jeopardy, or pulling out troops under fire without risking the life of a driver who traditionally needs to be exposed to navigate streets or terrain.

 

The Jetson's (image source: Wikipedia)

 

My mind keeps bringing up images of the automatic cars in the Minority Report, or the self-driving flying machines in the Jetsons.  I’ve seen many nick name references to these cars, such as Goomobiles. I’d like to through my own terms in the mix and call the cars either “Goobers” or “Gobsters” just to spice things up and be silly.

Cell Phones Use Among Adults (Pew Study)

By Amanda Lenhart

September 2, 2010
Texting by adults has increased over the past nine months from 65% of adults sending and receiving texts in September 2009 to 72% texting in May 2010. Still, adults do not send nearly the same number of texts per day as teens ages 12-17, who send and receive, on average, five times more texts per day than  adult texters.
The original purpose of the cell phone is still the most universal – nearly every cell phone user makes calls on their phone at least occasionally, and the average adult cell phone owner makes and receives around 5 voice calls a day…

Security Risks with Adobe Flash

I had to pass this along for those who use flash, especially those who work in the education industry…

July 8, 2010, 02:00 PM ET

Flash on College Web Sites May Pose Security Risk for Students

By Kelly Truong

Three computer-science lecturers at the University of Worcester—Joanne Kuzma, Colin Price, and Richard Henson—ran a scan on 250 college Web sites, testing for security vulnerabilities. Approximately 20 percent of the sites ran applications containing personal information within a Flash plug-in…

… security problems can arise due to professors, departments, and student organizations maintaining separate pages through the main university Web site. Academic departments often have their own individual servers, which are not set up through the school’s IT department and, therefore, may unknowingly pose security risks.

Read more from the Chronicle of Higher Education

Google Voice, The Debute

If you haven’t heard about this new free service from Google, you might consider its use. On the surface, this new resource is pretty cool and very useful. My concern, as always, is the privacy of personal information.

A good question to ask is whether a free service is worth the potential threat to privacy. What kind of potential threat to privacy could this be, and how likely or much of a threat could it be?

This new service from Google is free, but Google is able to glean useful information from your phone use. Phone companies have gleaned all sorts of information from you over the years without you knowing it. As technology advances, companies are able to tell all sorts of information about you should the company desire to do so.

For example, by number crunching they would be able to tell when you use the phone the most, where you call from, who you call the most, whether you take calls from telemarketers or political groups (perhaps tell whether you’re active in a particular group, give money or time), how often you phone your doctor, whether you purchase anything over the phone, if you are gone regularly from your house or are on a temporary vacation, whether you use mobile phones or land lines and how often (or can afford cell phones).

So there is a ton of information to glean from your communication habits. I’m not accusing Google or any phone service provider of giving your personal information to third parties, although there is potential. I suspect Google of crunching the numbers so it can be used in other ways. By understanding the habits of society, one can anticipate its wants & needs, plus respond to events and reactions more effectively.

What does Google plan to do with the information that passes through its hands? Most likely, it will continue to look for ways to be useful to society, to develop new services and tools. It seems like Google, like Microsoft, continues to influence the way that society operates; it has a huge impact on they way that we run our day to day lives as professionals as well as individually.

There are, of course, laws that protect the information of individuals; the laws are there for a reason. I believe that Google “behaves itself” as much as possible and plays by the rules. So I would rate the potential to abuse this information as medium to high, but to give it a low rating for likelihood simply because of Google’s current good reputation and the laws it needs to follow.

In time, I expect to try the Google Voice service in time. It may influence the way I communicate with others (or not).  There is always the potential!

Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain (Cloud Computing)

This is from a PEW Research Center email alert…

The web-based survey gathered opinions from prominent scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers. It is the fourth in a series of Internet expert studies conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

By Janna Anderson, Lee Rainie
June 11, 2010

Some 71% agreed with the statement:
“By 2020, most people won’t do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications such as Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones. Aspiring application developers will develop for smartphone vendors and companies that provide Internet-based applications, because most innovative work will be done in that domain, instead of designing applications that run on a PC operating system.”
Some 27% agreed with the opposite statement, which posited:
“By 2020, most people will still do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Internet-based applications like Google Docs and applications run from smartphones will have some functionality, but the most innovative and important applications will run on (and spring from) a PC operating system. Aspiring application designers will write mostly for PCs.”
The web-based survey gathered opinions from prominent scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers. It is the fourth in a series of Internet expert studies conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Pew Report: State of Online Video

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project New Email Alert

Today’s report comes from the Pew Research Center, by Kristen Purcell.

Seven in ten adult internet users (69%) have used the internet to watch or download video. That represents 52% of all adults in the United States.

Moreover, video creation has now become a notable feature of online life. One in seven adult internet users (14%) have uploaded a video to the internet.

“We are seeing a surge in online video watching that is driven by a combination of broadband access, the increasing use of social networking sites, and the popularity of video-sharing sites,” explains Kristen Purcell, Associate Director for Research and author of the report. “To tap into these trends, untold numbers of websites now showcase online video as part of their content.”

Driven by the popularity of online video among 18-29 year-olds, there have been dramatic increases since 2007 in the number of American adults watching:
  • Comedy or humorous videos, rising in viewership from 31% of adult internet users in 2007 to 50% of adult internet users in the current survey
  • Educational videos, rising in viewership from 22% to 38% of adult internet users
  • Movies or TV show videos, rising in viewership from 16% to 32% of adult internet users
  • Political videos, rising in viewership from 15% to 30% of adult internet users
On the other side of the camera, video creation has now become a notable feature of online life. One in seven adult internet users (14%) have uploaded a video to the internet, almost double the 8% who were uploading video in 2007. Home video is far and away the most popular content posted online, shared by 62% of video uploaders. And uploaders are just as likely to share video on social networking sites like Facebook (52% do this) as they are on more specialized video-sharing sites like YouTube (49% do this).

Read the full report: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/State-of-Online-Video.aspx

Library of Congress Will Archive Twitter

Twitter donates Tweets

Today there was a flurry of news about the Library of Congress, most of which was not very informative.  So like a true librarian, I decided to go straight to the source and see what the Library of Congress official news release had to say.

Twitter has donated its entire digital archive of public tweets to the Library of Congress.  The number of tweets they are looking at from Twitter’s inception in 2006 is in the billions.  There are around 50 million Twitter tweets a day, each is no longer that 140 characters.

Read more from the official Library of Congress news release or the official Twitter news release.

Memristive to Replace Traditional Transitors

Memristors Image

An array of 17 purpose-built oxygen-depleted titanium dioxide memristors built at HP Labs, imaged by an atomic force microscope. The wires are about 50 nm, or 150 atoms, wide. Electric current through the memristors shifts the oxygen vacancies, causing a gradual and persistent change in electrical resistance.

According to a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Development Company report, scientists at the HP have implemented a new way to store information that is more effective and efficient than the traditional transistor.  In fact, the “memristor,” short for memory resistor, works in a biological manner similar to the brain.  It may replace the fastest and most efficient computer memory of today, dynamic random access memory (D-Ram), in the next few years.

As for the human brain-like characteristics, memristor technology could one day lead to computer systems that can remember and associate patterns in a way similar to how people do.

This could be used to substantially improve facial recognition technology or to provide more complex biometric recognition systems that could more effectively restrict access to personal information.

These same pattern-matching capabilities could enable appliances that learn from experience and computers that can make decisions.

The funny thing is that the concept of the memristor is not new.  Leon Chua, a distinguished professor at Berkeley, published a paper in 1971 outlining the concept.  A recent article in Nature describes the algorithm involved.  The HP web site has additional information including a Wikipedia entry for memristors, link to the official press release, and FAQs about memristors.

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