August 24, 2009    |   Vol. 2, No. 28    |   ISSN: 1943-1457
Above the Fold
A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

In this issue:

In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History  (External site)

The New York Times   •   August 9, 2009

Digital trickle-down. The high-priced academic publishing industry is already facing a challenge from digital competitors in the higher ed arena and the K-12 market is also considering alternatives. This article drives home the point that the academic publishing business model is broken. As one California superintendent of schools predicts, "In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital textbooks."

Last week we had an article about "leasing" physical textbooks, this week it's another challenge to the traditional textbook container. This article has a digital textbook publisher discussing its "flexbooks." There's a word. Or not. The digital divide and the challenges to publishers are real when it comes to digital textbooks. Like the California superintendent I think those issues will be solved in five years. ( Michalko)

The Audacity of the Google Book Search Settlement  (External site)

The Huffington Post   •  August 10, 2009

Time to speak up. Berkeley law professor Pamela Samuelson says the Google Book Search settlement will transform the future of the book industry, affecting not just U.S. authors, but those from Germany, Japan, South Africa and other countries that are signatories to international treaties. Samuelson says objections must be filed with the court by September 4, 2009, so it's not too late to voice your opinion of the proposed settlement.

Although many of you have seen this, all of you should—so we point you towards it again. It's a good summary of the views most often heard in our circles. A surprise to see Professor Samuelson in the Huffington Post and quoting numbers derived from OCLC and WorldCat. Lorcan followed this up recently with a post that gives our estimate of "how many print books were published in the US since 1923, and how many authors were associated with those books." ( Michalko)

How Britannica Defied the Odds  (External site)

Harvard Business Publishing     August 7, 2009

The power of purpose. Rather than succumbing to online competition, Britannica actually leapt ahead 19 places in a UK brand ranking this year. Its inspiration is its "purpose of excellence," which the company credits for differentiating it in a crowded market of information providers. This article serves as a reminder that focus counts.

I hadn't thought about Britannica for some time. This article surprised me by asserting the company has 40 million subscribers at £50 each, or as the US site says, "just $69.95/yr (Save $1,325.05 off the print Encyclopædia Britannica)." I think the Wall Street Journal only claims one million online subscribers. ( Michalko)

After the Boom, Is Wikipedia Heading for Bust?  (External site)

New Scientist   •  August 4, 2009

The rise and fall of Wikipedia. Scientists at the Palo Alto Research Center say Wikipedia's growth peaked back in 2006 and since then the number of new articles added per month has declined by a third. Similar reductions are found in the number of edits made each month and the number of active editors. One of the culprits contributing to the problem may be spam links, which have been inserted into articles, distracting editors from more productive work. For more documentation, check out PARC's Augmented Social Cognition blog.

As the previous article says, focus counts—and for Wikipedia the focus may now have changed "from creating new articles to improving existing ones, resulting in more disputes about edits." The Augmented Social Cognition blog is worth a rummage. What's it about? "...understanding how groups remember, think and reason." ( Michalko)

Gartner Hype Cycle 2009: Web 2.0 Trending Up, Twitter Down  (External site)

ReadWriteWeb   •  August 11, 2009

The last tweet? A new Gartner white paper says cloud computing, e-books and Internet TV are at the "Peak of Inflated Expectations," while Twitter is teetering toward the "Trough of Disillusionment." Read on for blogger Richard MacManus's thoughtful take on Gartner's prognostications and a spate of comments protesting the prediction of Twitter's decline.

Remember this is about the HYPE cycle not about adoption and integration. Gartner also puts ebooks at the zenith of inflated expectations. Not wrong but nothing to do with their sales or innovation cycle. Lots of links in this article all of which take you to other interesting things. Read on. ( Michalko)

Reviving the Lost Art of Naming the World  (External site)

The New York Times   •  August 11, 2009

What's in a name? This is a fascinating article on the fading art of taxonomy and humans' deep-seated need to name things as a way to understand the world and their place in it. You'll never look at a butterfly or wildflower the same way again.

The persistence of two-part description is pretty remarkable. Take the bird naming quiz that's a version of the experiment outlined in the article. I got 8 of 10 on choosing the right name for bird or fish. If there's any fish or bird sorting to be done you'll want me on your team. ( Michalko)

Intelligent Video: The Top Cultural and Educational Video Sites  (External site)

Open Culture   •  June 5, 2009

Beyond YouTube. Who knew there were so many online video resources? Check it out and save the link.

A list of 46 sites is a little bit long to be helpful for someone unfamiliar with the type. Relevance, ranking and guidance, where are you? Alphabetical order doesn't help. That said, I note my favorite, TEDtalks, is on the list, as well as another that runs against the crowdsource grain by virtue of being curated, Babelgum. The latter has iPhone as well as Android apps which I think increases the usefulness of these video sites immensely. Fitting a short viewing into the interstices is a great benefit. ( Michalko)

 
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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Programs and Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Programs and Research items are supplied by staff in RLG Programs and OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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