Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Online book display

Check out this online book display using Flickr.

Also here is a summary of a new article on library research that argues efficiency is not always a benefit to the researcher. At least that is my summary of the summary. Hope to spend some time with the actual article soon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Google's Popular Passages

Yet another Google Book Search update...

Just discovered a new feature called "popular passages" where Google Books will list passages in a a book that have been quoted in other books and link to the texts in those other books. A neat tool for understanding how older books especially have been received. Search "Democracy in America" for an example.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Religious Books in Prison

The NY Times published an article on efforts to remove religious books from federal prisons that have not been approved for being non-violent. I first heard about this from a Muslim chaplain at the ATLA conference this summer but it is not limited to Islamic books, books of all faiths are being removed. The lists of approved books is not currently being made public.

1. As we remember the victims of 9/11 today what a sad legacy of those attacks. I understand that federal prisoners by definition don't enjoy all the rights that non-prisoners enjoy but it does not seem just to deprive them of the freedom to read religious material of their choosing.

2. I've so far only seen a little about this in library blogs. One would hope that the American Library Association will be as aggressive in denouncing this as they are in other cases of censorship.

3. This is also a reminder as we think about the future of information, that information is powerful and people in power will seek to control it. Religious information is perhaps especially powerful, a double edged sword, and that power can be threatening.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Google's Mylibrary

Google's Book Search now has a "My Library" option. Google describes this feature:

You can now create personalized libraries on Google Book Search where you can label, review, rate, and of course, full-text search, a customized selection of books. These collections will live online and be accessible anywhere you can log in to your Google account. Once you've built a collection, you can share it with friends by sending them a link to your library in Google Book Search. You can even set up RSS feeds with friends so that they're alerted when you add new books to your collection.

Wired claims this is Google's attempt to compete with Librarything and Shelfari. The wired article claims the big advantage that Google has over those services is that you can search books in your library to find specific quotes etc. However it currently lacks a lot of the social networking features that makes Librarything so interesting (and fun).

It will be interesting to see if Google tries (and is able) to harness the wisdom of the online crowd to improve searching for books, to add new books and editions to its database, and/or to improve the quality of its scanned images. If individuals would take ownership of the books in "their library" they may be willing to work on improving the metadata and the actual data. If Google could harvest these efforts there could be great utility and profit in it.

Google's My Library also seems consistent with announced plans to start charging for full text of some copyrighted work (see this for example). Perhaps we will be able to create a personalized library of full text that we've paid for.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Ebook news

The New York Times ran an article yesterday on new developments in the ebook world. Although the article takes a very skeptical tone - comparing ebooks to flying cars and video phones, it seems to me that the day of ebooks may be coming sooner rather than later.

The article reports that Amazon is going to start to market an ebook reader that with a wireless connection to Now there are a lot of ifs but if the book selection is sufficiently large (and this is Amazon so it should be) and if the cost per the ebook is sufficiently low and finally if the screen is actually adequate for long periods of reading. I could imagine wanting to buy this reader. Being able to browse and select books from Amazon and read them instantly would be a draw.

The second bit of news is that Google is preparing to start charging to view full text of copyright works in their Googlebook database. This as yet to be paired with a mobile reader but the sheer quantity of books on Google makes it seem likely that someone will try to find a way to allow people recreational access to those digital texts. A device with adequate screen resolution that could instantly access and display any book in the Google book database even for a small price would probably be pretty popular.

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