Saturday, June 23, 2007

Espresso Book Machine

That the Espresso Book Machine exists is not new news -- World Bank and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina went into beta-test last year. On Demand showed models at BEA earlier this month. The story of the company is an interesting one, as is the QT movie of the alpha version (called Perfect Book) on the On Demand Books site.

What is news is that New York Public Library has received the first production machine. They plan to begin by offering 20 titles on demand from the 200,000 from the Open Content Alliance. It's been variously described as a "vending machine for books" and an "ATM for books."

It was also announced that the New Orleans Public Library, the University of Alberta campus bookstore, the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont, and at the Open Content Alliance are the next to receive machines. I am particularly excited about the possibilities for New Orleans Public -- what a great way to offer services to patrons while they are still re-building their collections and facilities two years after Hurricane Katrina.

Do I even need to say that I think print-on-demand is a technology with huge promise? It makes digital files usable in an additional way, it provides quick fulfillment, and reduces wasteful production that takes up warehouse space and might end up getting pulped if there is no demand.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Adobe Digital Editions

A colleague pointed out to me that Adobe had released the 1.0 version of Digital Editions yesterday.

It's an interface for managing, sorting, annotating, and reading electronic text files, not unlike iTunes or iView or Picasa in look & feel. The library view lets you manage your collection (drag-and-drop bookshelves) in thumbnail or list view, while the reading view lets you work within one text at a time, including make annotations. The double page view is a plus. It's a different rendering engine than regular Adobe reader, but I'm not yet sure of the differences. Once review that I read said that the rendering is worse, and apparently there's also a flavor of PDF that can be read only by Digital Editions and not by regular Reader. I usually read ebooks on my Palm device, so I can't compare my past ebook reading experience with this. Digital Editions also supports the EPUB XHTML etext format. Let's hope the ability to create EPUB files using InDesign improves.

The biggest potential flaw is that Digital Editions offers no web portal for locating and downloading books or for automated importing if one expects the iTunes model of ebook discovery, sales, or collection building.


Every so often I have heard mention of the Zebra XML indexing tool. I'd peeked at it once some time ago -- while cool, it wasn't right for what I was working with at the time.

Now I'm looking at solutions for how we're going to make our Fedora-based Digital Collections Repository available as a target for our Serials Solutions 360 Search. The first idea was to take advantage of our OAI data provider because it already exists and exposes our objects. SS wasn't ready to set up an OAI target.

The most sensible thing is to set up a SRU gateway. My only qualm about setting a gateway up on top of our Repo indexing environment right now is that we're making the transition from XPAT to Lucence/Solr, but we aren't there yet and I don't want to set it up for one and then have to set it up again when we migrate. It could be so easy that I don't need to worry, but I need to take it into consideration.

Then, I wondered if I could still take advantage of our OAI data provider and set up a SRU gateway on top of that? I asked on the OAI list and got a few responses, one of which I am researching.

Then someone emailed me about Zebra, because 2.0 has templates in place to handle OAI as input and provide a SRU gateway using Yaz. I haven't spent a lot of time on it yet, but it looks really interesting. I don't know yet if it's the solution for me, but as an XML indexing tool, Zebra 2.0 seems a real step ahead of its earlier versions.

Facebook lending club

I in no way deny that I don't fully get Facebook. I have all sorts of issues with sharing a lot of personal information online. Maybe I'm just not a social network kind of girl.

I briefly signed up a couple of years ago thinking that I might participate as an alumna of UCLA -- where_ are_ the folks I went to graduate school with? -- but there wasn't much activity and I never checked in. While I have an archived email message that I registered, I just tried to log in and my email comes up as unregistered. Maybe I had my account deleted? I don't remember.

But this phenomenon really interests me -- Facebook Lending Club. Here's the page on how it works:

It's person-to-person "social lending," using the Facebook platform to enable lenders to find borrowers and vice-versa. Would-be borrowers fill out an application in Facebook and request to borrow between $1,000 and $25,000. Lending Club analyzes their credit rating and suggests an interest rate between approximately 7 and 12 percent if the person meets risk standards. Lenders who sign up enter in the amount they’re willing to loan and the interest rate they want. Lending Club takes advantage of Facebook's data about group memberships and personal connections in its “LendingMatch” technology to then pair the lender and borrower based on the shared connections it finds.

This is a really interesting model. A friend of mine participates in Kiva, which makes person-to-person microloans to support entrepreneurial businesses. A small amount of money -- $25 or $5,000 -- can change a person's life.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I spent Friday night and all day Saturday at the Charlottesville beCamp:

The recap hasn't been populated yet, but will eventually be fleshed out:

I got to know a lot of folks that I should have already met in the last five years, including some folks that I see walk by my office almost every day without knowing who they were. I also met a lot of folks from the greater community that's not the University. I had a great time even though I'm not a hard-core coder type. My fears of appearing an outsider and having nothing to contribute besides going on ice-buying runs were unfounded.

The planning was a bit chaotic at times -- next time we need to make sure that only the event is free form, not the implementation. Companies stepped up to the plate to be sponsors, and lots of folks pitched in on the setup and cleanup and making sure that the trains ran on time (you know who you are!). There will be another beCamp!

Erik Hatcher gave an overview of Blacklight, including some of the developing BlacklightDL work. I took part in some great discussions:

  • How we understand what to build (on setting and iterating through specifications during development)
  • Reputation on the Net (building it and protecting it)
  • Agile methods (Scrum in particular)
  • How to Screen Scrape (I was curious what non-Library folks use screen-scraping for -- mostly feeds and filtering)
The Agile methods discussion was one I was particularly looking forward to, because the Library is working with OpenSource Connections on BlacklightDL and they employ Scrum procedures. Eric Pugh from OSC led the discussion, and I got more insight into the process that I am currently part of. I very much need to look into this as a potential mode for our development operations.

The reputation on the Net discussion was a livelier one than I expected, given that it was opposite a session of various REST APIs. One man had had his identity spoofed in a blog and hate messages associated with his name, some were really concerned about privacy, some wondered if messages they posted while in college would ever age off the Net, and others were concerned about how to develop their reputation online, and how to identify their varied work and handles over time as all being one person. It's personal name disambiguation! Bess and I remembered a paper we saw at JDCL in 2006. There was also some discussion about Spock. I pointed out just how much is already available from public records, as I found when I searched my own name in It's interesting how little we think about what can be easily discovered about ourselves.

Monday, June 11, 2007

another browser to test when developing

Apple has released the beta of Safari for Windows.

RomeReborn 1.0

As a technologist who trained as an archaeologist, I am excited by every virtual reconstruction of archaeological sites that I come across. I remember how impressed I was by the very early virtual Trajan's Forum project co-developed by UCLA's Urban Simulation Teams and the Getty, and UCLA's Virtual Los Angeles Project, both of which I first saw at the 1997 ACM Meeting. I was so impressed I invited Bill Jepson from UCLA to speak at the 1998 MCN Conference about virtual world building.

Today, the Comune di Roma celebrated the unveiling of RomeReborn 1.0. Bernie Frischer from UVA and Diane Favro from UCLA led an international team of archaeologists, architects, and computer modelers in assembling a huge recreation of Rome as it existed circa 320 AD under the Emperor Constantine, covering the area within the 13 miles of Aurelian Walls that encircled it. Virtual visitors can navigate through and around all the buildings and streets, including the Colosseum, the Senate House, and the Temple of Venus and Rome.

Friday, June 01, 2007

LibX at UVA

Some times things just come together the way you want them to.

A few weeks ago we started casually looking at LibX, following the announcements of beta tests at other institutions. We liked what we saw, but other projects got in the way of immediate follow up.

Last Tuesday one of our subject librarians mentioned that she'd seen a demo, and it \seemed time to get back to it. Jim Campbell pulled together what we needed and sent the configuration file off to Virginia Tech at 5:13, and received a test version UVa LibX toolbar back at 5:26. I had it installed and was searching at 5:29.

It was meant to be. A couple of other folks had seen the same LibX demo as the subject librarian who contacted us. They had decided that this was something we needed to look into, and there was some surprise when Jim sent out the announcement that we'd set up the prototype because we hadn't yet let folks know that we were working on it.

It all came together, and just nine days after setting up the test version (and making some config changes) it was announced that the UVa LibX toolbar was open for business at a Library-wide meeting. And we've arranged for the toolbar to be added to Firefox on all public Library machines for fall.

Quoting the email that Jim sent to the Library staff:

You can search Virgo as well as our ejournal list, and Google Scholar.

LibX will also put the little orange Rotunda on pages from Amazon, the NYT Book Review, and other sources linking to a Virgo search.

If you highlight a term on a Web page and then right-click, you'll get a menu of search options.

But truly the coolest thing is highlighting the title in a citation on a Web page or in a PDF and dragging it onto that Scholar button. The LibX developers call it their magic button and a lot of the time it really does seem to work that way.
If it's an article we have electronic access to, you don't really even see Google or our Resolver -- you get to the article that quickly. It's a lot more efficient than going to our citation finder, typing or pasting in the info, being taken to a results screen, and then to the article (if not to the journal issue before that).

And the first time I saw a UVa symbol next to a book title in Amazon (David Wienberger's Everything in Miscellaneous) It was just plain cool.