At the Only Edge that Means Anything / How We Understand What We Do
by Dennis Brunning (E Humanities Development Librarian, Arizona State University) <email@example.com>
Annals of Search: Search Shenanigans
Bing’s search goal is to not produce nonsense; Bing figures you need what you need in the right amount and right for your decision making. Google’s goal — well, it used to be to do no evil or organize the world’s knowledge.
To librarians none of this sounds good enough, hardly reaching our search goals. Who knew that it would become a consumer concern and a Google problem extraordinaire.
Recently Google took major steps to correct a thorny issue. Project Panda, through clever engineering, was going to blacklist content farms and other Websites that game Google’s rules. These sites often come out top in search results. Google feels trust is at stake.
Users trust Google to give them relevant results for least effort. A few keywords and you are off and running — booking that cruise, buying that car, contributing to that candidate. Used to be we thought users didn’t go beyond page three. Today, it’s more like the third entry.
To be in that holy trinity cost e-commerce companies dearly, especially in search engine optimization (SEO) costs. They also will pay high prices for sponsored links — those on the right side of the page and more than ever on top of the page.
If you don’t play this game, you need to be lucky, if you know what Google means.
A whole content industry developed around how Google selected and displayed results. Creative people in SEO, search engine optimization, wrote, plagiarized, data mined whatever words they could to promote their sites. These content farms were chock full of ads, displayed in the hope that users would click on them.
Just last month, Google acted. They put into effect new search rules to reduce content farms search impact. The big losers in this could be Demand Media where writers toil often at fewer than a few cents an hour to produce sticky content.
As librarians, we could just roll our eyes and prattle on about the limits of consumer search. Unfortunately, we are struggling to maintain our research tools in the face of a new generation of users who know nothing more than Google has to offer.
The takeaway: those search engine users who understand Google’s problem are savvy enough to understand what library search engines offer. We need to tell them this story. There are no content cows at the library search farm.
Downloads from the ZeitGeist
Digital doubt: (AKA: net delusion, the shallows, “you are not a gadget”) the thought, like a shadow presence, that we’ve gone overboard with the online thing. We are just overwhelmed. Explored in new indie movies — “Beautifully Moving Parts,” and “American Animal,” each film, in its own way, goes off-line to connect, asking “does all this connectedness make you happy?”
Executable paper: Elsevier putting up prize money for those among us who can figure out a more fungible publishing format — pdf that integrates multimedia, gaming, communication. The new STM DRM?
Googlization: as in “of everything” Bon mot that puts the joy and sorrow of the search engine’s influence on us.
Hindawi: one of the leading open access publishers, has sold offspring to Springer. May be cause for a new verb — “hindawied” as in “we hindawied those to a major publisher.”
Hathi Trust: Another Hindu word…The trust has gone prime time with new members, great search engine, easy deposit of repository objects. Should we coin a new term “reposit”? Question: where are those scanned copies Google gave you? Trust us, we want to know.
E Shelf Life: HarperCollins rediscovers the shelf, originally a physical place — to introduce limits on how many times you can use an eBook before extra fees are charged. What, there is wear and tear on the digital binding?
DBpedia: a wiki sibling to be sure, is a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and to make this information available on the Web. A better Wikipedia it seems; make sure you capitalize the first two letters.
etextbook: textbooks have been online for a while, they just lacked a portable reader. With all the devices in-hand these days, textbook publishers like Pearson and Macmillan are now extremely enthused about them. However, these aren’t going to be just the imaged print; multimedia, interactivity, game simulations are all part of the mix. The better the mix, the higher the price?
Gonegoogle: Google’s marketing effort goes to the off-line media to state its case and lure new customers. Off-line — sounds oxymoronic given Google’s firm lack of interest in that territory.
Where the Wild Things Are: eBooks…
With holiday buying season — and that time of the New Year when the e-product cycle takes off — well, things around eBooks got wild.
We have, in no particular order, iPad 2, Kindle 3G, Nook Color, Lendle. Let’s dive in.
iPad 2 — Steve Jobs recently stepped back on the Apple stage to introduce the world to the next iPad — the deuce. Imagine the anointed present tweeting or blogging the event on their iPad unos. Their current iPads must have felt heavy in hand as they calculated the cost of getting the much thinner, lighter, and sexier device — not in their hands but on stage in the hand of Mr. Apple.
How thin can you get with these things? Jobs was all smiles as he went on about the same cost but lighter machine which now carried two cameras. You can’t talk with them yet; a little larger than a college-ruled notebook, the iPad as smartphone would look rather heavy-handed and lame.
For those buying and reading books on the iPad, however, there was not so nice news. Apple now will not approve apps that don’t highlight the Apple I Bookstore first before any others. Apple first turned down the Sony App and likely the Kindle. This story has yet to play out.
Kindle 3G — Amazon, not to be left standing without innovation, launched the Kindle 3G — the third generation. Like the iPad, it is slimmer, sleeker, available in Dell gray. Most notable, there are two versions with a Wi-Fi version that prices in at $139.00. Now if you had access to some wireless connectivity to the Internet, you could download at will those Kindle books that now range from free to about $15.00 with many at the long-standing $9.99. Amazon is doing a good job at keeping this price, while Apple and others yield to the agency pricing model — publisher sets price. This typically means a $15.00 or higher priced title.
Nook Color — Did we mention many Borders are closing? It may be because they don’t have Nook. Nook is Barnes and Nobles e-reader which features Kindle size and iPad color graphics — well, almost. It is a nifty package and many Kindle users might be slightly jealous that Nook gives you great magazine layouts — like the iPads but at half the price.
On the downside, some found performance sluggish and the interface not as intuitive as it could be. Hmm…it’s got 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, it’s got color — it just isn’t Amazon or Apple.
Oh, but you can read your library books on them — if and when you can find them. And figure it out.
E Shelf Life — E Shelf Life is a new e-publishing policy which puts a cap on the number of times an eBook can be lent. HarperCollins announced in March that its eBooks, purchased by libraries, would be control managed for twenty-six checkouts. This is a licensing and technical move. Hate to be the 27th in line…
Public libraries, especially those in business with Overdrive, are irked by this especially in hard economic times. Whether HarperCollins’ move will be popular among other publishers remains to be seen.
In this zone, Lendle, an eBook lending management company has opened shop. Its main partner is Amazon. Lendle will manage the Amazon Kindle books for which publishers will allow some lending.
These developments, at first blush, don’t seem attractive to libraries. However they may foreshadow a developing interest in publishers to address lending of eBooks in a library environment. After all, the library market is a trailing market, the day after Mardi Gras, the moment when the fireworks are over and business wonders — how can we extract just about all profit from our labor?
Paywalls Going Up — Although the book industry is not the newspaper industry (sad or glad?), a development at the Grey Lady should raise eyebrows. Ben Sulzberger, the New York Times publisher, announced without much ceremony, subscription plans for the newspaper of record that everyone thought was dead. Well, not dead but doomed. It seems like only Murdoch’s financial papers and the Financial Times, another business wonder, were the only former newsprint products that reader customers would pay for. And pay again and again — a new invoice for each platform. These guys are doing well, not laying off in the editorial and reporting departments, and beaming out print, online, mobile versions — happily skipping to the offshore bank.
The New York Times will no longer be free except for the front and section pages. Free use will be limited to 20 downloads a month — you will need to tell them who you are — and you will only get free online if you subscribe to the full online or variations of the weekly delivered copy. If you are one of these customers you’ve, of course, registered already. And they’ve already cleared you for total access. @Brunning has Sunday-only delivery — the entitlement is free browser access.
It’s unclear what the archives access and costs will be for the individual subscriber. Libraries are scrambling to prepare for the free-birds who will now need our gracious subscriber stipends.
Oddly, users who get to a Times story through a blog, twitter, or social networking site will read that linked title free — with no metered consequences. Surely, the hackers among us will figure the bit torrent solution to free-for-all with this loophole. Whether libraries will brave the illegality of gaming the loophole — who knows, it’s wild!