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When I came across this article and video, I could not help thinking about ebook readers filling a niche by being helpful for the visually impaired and disabled.

Suffering from glaucoma and an English Lit major, Virginia Campbell could not properly read, write and use a computer until she got an iPad.

Watch this wonderful video and read the article:

And here is Virginia’s limerick:

“To this technology-ninny it’s clear
In my compromised 100th year,
That to read and to write
Are again within sight
Of this Apple iPad pioneer.”

This shows how the iPad (including eBook readers) can open a whole new world for the disenfranchised. I have seen how the iPad would be perfect for my elderly and disabled relatives – including my mom who has visual impairment and can only read large-print books, and my brain-damaged sister who really wants to use a computer but is too hard for her still).

Now this is what I call exciting.


First of all, Nicole’s incredible dialog blog write-up is phenomenal, in regards to the Cushing Academy’s issue of eliminating ALL books from their collection.   Great points.

Hidden Factor of Why Cushing Story Loses Some of its Juice:

I think one of the interesting aspects of this issue can be found in one of the responses to the article  – the fact that there is a well-used public library right down the street that students often use.  It’s always important to what… do proper environmental scanning, and realize that there is another library helping to supply the 20,000 book void that Cushing Academy created:

The posting comment by Shoshanna Silverstein:

What they don’t mention here is that the public library is literally right down the street.  Students at Cushing can walk to Ashburnham Public Library in less than 5 minutes from the center of their campus.  Cushing having a library is almost unnecessary if you take that into consideration.”

Very powerful and illuminating point and fact.  So important to take the whole environment into context, which sort of strips this story of some of its potency.

Frankenstein says “Books Bad, Fire Good:”

What I find slightly horrifying is the statement by the academy headmaster James Tracy: “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.”

He also thinks it is wiser to spend $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine.  You know, coffee is a far more important investment than those out-of-date books… oh, also “gotta” have some $42,000 on three large flat screen TVs…  Personally, it would be better to spend that $100,000 and give 200 students iPads.  That would be creative marketing and applications to the academy would flood in.

Liz Vezina, a librarian at Cushing commented, “It makes me sad.  I’m going to miss them. I love books. I’ve grown up with them, and there’s something lost when they’re virtual. There’s a sensual side to them — the smell, the feel, the physicality of a book is something really special.”

Why is it that so often that those who want to be hip and up on the new wave or the latest technology, don’t realize that you don’t throw everything out like the old was all bad and that technology is all good.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there can be a blend of offerings within the library space, complementary even.  In fact, if books are going the way of manuscripts and scrolls, then they might want to hold onto them as investment if books go the way of rarity.

Where’s the ebook waiting list?

Some of our other articles written on ebooks in academia seem to demonstrate the lack of interest by students.  Some of this is because of proprietary issues, cost issues, lack of exposure issues, and the list goes on.  In the Princeton report, students actually were given Kindles (that sure makes a difference) with course/textbook material – most thought that it lacked proper annotation facility that occurs with paper models.  I mean if a school was going to hand out a Kindle, or better yet, an iPad, I’d take it.  Of course, with Google Edition, we can now download Google Books collections on our computers.  I still believe the market for ebooks in academia will be in textbook and course material.  That would one of the best offerings for electronic books.  In particular, ebooks based in certain areas, such as the sciences would benefit from updated electronic books as well as technology-based areas.

Give me a format, give me a standard!

Ok, I just had to throw in this Afghanistan PowerPoint diagram – it’s too good. Please substitute verbage above for ebook formats…

Part of the problem in building ebook collections is the dizzying array of choices of readers, and formats.  I mean at least the International Digital Publishing Forum is trying to push for one standard – ePub, yet the reality is that there exits over 50 different ebook formats.  This is also likely why libraries haven’t taken a huge plunge into this area nor why users are not going “ga-ga” for ebooks.

iPad and Google Edition:

I do think that the iPad will being to make a dent into interest in eBooks.  I mean, there were more iPads sold in 1 month than Kindles for an entire year.  I mean, witness the English lit major and 100-year-old woman, having glaucoma, who already has read two books in one week on iPad, Of course, Kindles are better for your eyes and interestingly for your sleep than iPads.  Yet, I can’t help but think that Apple and Google will be playing big-time in the ebook arena with iPad and Google Edition.  It will be interesting how ebooks eventually play out in academic and public collections, or will we be seeing ebook rentals on the horizon?  Now that’s a whole other can of worms…

When a player like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak joins the advisory board of DeepDyve, it sends a signal to the Internet community that this must be something “hot.”  The “Woz” (why do some tech leaders get names like this – especially from Apple – “Tog,” etc.?) saw the possibilities of this search engine that crawls what is known as “deep web,” or what is not indexed by search engines.  We often think when we use Google, we are tapping into a lot of material.  However, what is so fascinating is that according to a study by the University of California, Berkeley (, traditional search engines only index .2% of the Internet.  .2%!  That means that 99.8% is not indexed and resides invisibly in the abyss of the “dark web.”  The goal of DeepDyve is to mine the data in the deep web and make it accessible to research.

DeepDyve was founded by two scientists from the Human Genome Project (designing a system for pattern-matching data).  Chris Sherman from Search Engine Land (  comments enthusiastically on DeepDyve’s “genomic researcher” bent (vs. computer scientists and linguists that base search strategies on text and keywords) on setting up “sequence” search strategies, such as indexing words but also computing the “factorial combination of worlds and phrases in the document and uses some industrial strength statistical techniques to assess the ‘information impact’ of these combinations.”  DeepDyve primarily covers scientific, technical and medical research.  With its KeyPhrasetechnology, one can enter up to 25,000 characters – meaning one can also cut and past paragraphs to search for.  A big boon – a user does not have to rely on just an abstract or title to ascertain whether the article is fitting or not.  DeepDyve allows the user to read the full article before buying it.

The DeepDyve article rental plan sounds a lot like Netflix but with a twist – rent viewing time and if so desired, buy the article.  The plans include:

  • One time rental cost of 24 hour article viewing: .99/per article
  • Silver monthly plan: 9.99 for 20 articles to read for 7 days
  • Gold monthly plan: 19.99 for unlimited articles for unlimited time

A problem for researchers with DeepDyve is that in reading the article in its Flash-based proprietary viewer, users cannot capture that information electronically or through print.  If users want to copy any material, it’s down to writing on paper.  Another problem is that publishers that have signed up veer more toward the scholarly societies over for-profit publishers.  What a surprise – Elsevier is not a player.  Certainly, DeepDyve can augment research by providing relatively inexpensive access to those devoid of the free richness of databases and electronic journals found on university campuses.  That is often the shocker when leaving a university – suddenly devoid of those lovely journal and database resources.  Not even alumni get a piece.  However, one alumni association has taken it on.  The Caltech (California Institute of Technology) Alumni Association recently hooked up with DeepDyve ( to provide their alumni discounted DeepDyve memberships.  Now, that’s a start.

Graphic Novels: There’s a Method to My Manga

Graphic novels and manga have become the new wave of pop culture reading in the United States and is slowly entering into academic curriculum and collections, and all I can say is, it’s about time.  Elizabeth M. Downey in her article Graphic Novels in Curriculum and Instruction Collections describes graphic novels as being “once disregarded as a lower form of literature” that “has evolved into pop culture artifact.”  That’s true but when looking through the lens of U.S. culture (American comic book legacy), not from where this really all stemmed from: the culture of Japanese manga (and of course, spread throughout Asia, as a fellow GSLIS student says Korean manga is the bomb).  I didn’t see the light of day until I took a 20th century Japanese art history course with my wonderful University of California Irvine professor Dr. Winther-Tamaki.  Key to our studies and a much referenced book is Dr. Sharon Kinsella’s Adult Manga.  It’s an art form, a way of life, a complex but accessible visual reader, and a means of communication inherently Japanese (even simply through the style of facial expressions, tone of voice, and grunts).  Its roots go back to the temple scrolls of the 12th century yet modern manga was born in the 20th century and truly emerged within Japan’s national reformulation after WWII.

Critical to this understanding is that manga is big business and they’ve been doing this a long time.   Publishers, be on alert.  The global manga business is a $5 billion dollar market, U.S. sales in 2005 being $180 million, and yes, 60% of manga readers are female.  Milton Griepp, CEO of stated in 2006 that “books are not a growth business but the manga category has tripled in the last three years.  That gets our attention.”

Part of this growth in manga and the graphic novel is inherent in our “visual literate” age where as professor Laura Mullen from Louisiana State says “We’re all of the Internet now…we never get a word without an image going with it, so in fact I think this is the direction of our future reading comprehension.  It will include both visual literacy and verbal literacy.”  In “What is Manga?  The Influence of Pop Culture in Adolescent Art,” Masami Toku writes interestingly of a stage of cognitive development that Japanese youth continue to develop over their U.S. counterparts – that is artistic development skills that are naturally inherent in children as well as nurtured.  Japanese youth and adults are more likely to be more visually literate than their U.S. counterparts from their exposure to manga and anime.

What blew my mind in studying Dr. Kinsella’s Adult Manga is that non-fiction manga is a huge component of Japanese culture.  This fascinated me above anything else.  This can range from textbooks, historical, cooking, sports, business, finance, language, social behavior, and so much more.

There is Oishinbo (The Gourmet) about cuisine:

There is historical manga – such as the classic 1994 Berusaiyu no bara about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution.

One example of business manga was the wildly successful Manga Nihon keizai nyumon from 1986 also known as Japan Inc. – Introductory Guide to Japanese Economics.

How about some manga textbooks on electronic circuitry, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics?

To use manga-based textbooks and curriculum is not far-fetched in seeing its history. With the iPad being a marvelous medium for graphic novels (seeMarvel Comics on iPad announcement), it seems that electronic manga books (and remember textbooks – key area where Steve Jobs is positioning this device) are not far behind.

There’s also the serious endeavor of Meiji University’s Tokyo International Manga Library scheduled for 2014 that will contain over 2.1 acres of manga to house over 2.1 million manga related items in its archive.  Now, that’s a special collection I could get into.

OK, who took my manga guide to databases?  I love relational databases (yeah, right).

See attached PDF for more fun…

The iPad as New Forum for Digital Textbooks?

Probably the deal that has gotten me most excited about the possibility of really good digital textbooks has been the introduction of the iPad.  Needless to say, Steve Jobs has made no bones about going after the digital textbook market, and all I can say, is go for it.  I suppose iTunes is a bit of a music cartel, but I’ve been relatively happy with that drug of choice.  I can only assume that iPad would be a hit with college students in portability, visuals,touchability , and multi-functionality.  When you’ve seen what can be done with graphic novels, magazines or an interactive that could appear as part of a digital textbook on iPad (such as Marvel Comics, Popular Science Magazine, and The Elements), one sees that the iPad is a disruptive innovation  in the world of textbook publishing, perhaps even more so than typical e-readers (like the iPhone was for smartphones).  The cost for some of these is still drug pushing, but how sweet it is.  Another complementary aspect to a digital textbook in iPad is the ability to use its Voice Over feature, which reads the textbook out loud to you.  In addition, it is published in the open book platform,ePub.  Though the iBookstore is not stocked with digital textbooks yet (McGraw-Hill has already signed up), it will be interesting to see what textbook publishers develop this summer for its fall lineup.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World:

In the posting “The Complex World of the Textbook” from the Disruptive Library Technology Jester blog, a very complex portrait of the textbook “ecosystem” is presented.  Complex indeed!  My mind is swirling.

DLTJ identifies the US GAO as publishing a report called College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings to Drive Recent Price Increases. They identify a diagram that illustrates this complexity called “The Typical Life Cycle of a College Textbook.”

The 2005 diagram provided looks like this:

Only 5 years later, the diagram should look like this:

OK, this is an actual U.S. government diagram describing the Afghanistan war situation (and it doesn’t include the opium drug market unfortunately for comparison and for fitting analogies), but you get the drift – it’s getting more complex.

On a side note, this diagram came from a complex PowerPoint demonstration.  I learned in our job talk exercise, that more on PowerPoint slides is not necessarily better…

Drug Cartel/Market Analogy

Andrea James writes thoughtfully and powerfully in her article “Prescription for consumers challenging academic textbook cartels.”  Again, we get to the drug analogy, and how fitting it is.  This reminds me of Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s lively article “Dealing with the Pusher Man.”  She compares the textbook publishing industry to the prescription drug racket.  This analogy is quite fitting too in that some folks have tried to get their prescription drugs in other countries, similar to students purchasing European or Asian versions of their textbooks for cheaper prices.  She references this analogy in Dr. James V. Koch’s report in that –

  • faculty=physicians
  • textbook publishers = drug cartels

and add…

  • textbooks= brand-name drugs
  • textbook salesmen = drug pushers and dealers


Her statistics on textbook publishing blow my MIND!  Here are the ones that really make a play:

General: In 2006, 4.9 billion spent on textbooks, nearly 2 billion of that on used.

Faculty: 1 of 2 don’t know textbook costs.

Publishers/booksellers:  FIVE CONGLOMERATES CONTROL 80% of TEXTBOOK PRODUCTION, FOUR WHOLESALERS HOLD TEXTBOOK DISTRIBUTION (particularly used books), and operate 35% of college bookstores.  They then operate as cartels to present re-importation from non-US markets, remove used books, rapidly changing/modifying editions (that could mean just changing some exercises or making a pretty cover), bundle, fix prices, and other nefarious practices.

Institutions:  Almost all profit, receipt of government financial aid will ironically increase textbooks costs, and looking at rental ebook systems, but which will possibly destroy used book market.

Students:  80% of students are buying required textbook, 67% are purchased used textbooks online, and often students are stuck with mainly high-priced means of obtaining textbooks (except sometimes looking for drugs, oops, I mean textbooks in Europe and Asia online).  A big player in student textbook purchasing behavior is Amazon.

Open Textbooks:

One remedy for this includes open-textbooks (Open Textbooks, Open Source Text, Flat World Knowledge, Wikibooks, and also is CNX to develop math materials and CAPL that offers visual media for elementary schools).

Digital Textbooks – Rentals and Effect?

With digital textbooks, which seem to operate as timed digital rentals, the ability to have currency and portability is enhanced, with the promise of cost reduction (again, there is the promise, but we have to see).  Of course, digital textbooks add to the complexity of the whole textbook market in that it will eat into the used textbook market as well as forcing textbook publishers to modify their offerings.  I wonder if some aspects of digital textbook publishing might enter the cartel-like aspects of digital serial publishers?

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