Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My new hobby...

Project Number 1:Daisies
and Project Number 2: Paisley. This one started out as playing with paints, and then I tied it all together...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

In Memorium: Sieg Vogt

When I got to WSU 10 years ago, I didn't know much about collection development, and Sieg was my mentor - I also learned a lot of even more important stuff at the occasional times I hung out at Rico's (the local faculty/grad student watering hole) with the gang. When he retired from the WSU Libraries, I "wrote" this and sang it (badly and too fast!) standing on a chair at the retirement afterparty at Rico's. I inherited the political science and criminal justice departments from him (speaking as a liasion librarian, of course!) although I'm not sure even after 8 years that I've really begun to fill his big social sciences librarian shoes! He once gave me a vintage IWW (Wobblie) pin that I wear every May Day; I'll be wearing it at his memorial service this Friday. For more on Sieg's amazing life (he was a true firefighting Hot Shot!) see .

Drinking Song, from Sigmund Romberg's operetta The Student Prince (here's a sample of the way its supposed to go:

Drink! Drink! Drink!
The WSU Libraries will never be the same
Drink! Drink! Drink!
We’ve lost a pinnacle of reference fame

No more will Sieg always be around
To save us when Humanities tries to go out of bounds…

Collection development to hell’s gonna go
We might as well move Hum/Soc right into Rico’s…

Drink! Drink!
Let the toasts start
May Si-eg never part
Drink! Drink! Drink!
Let every librarian salute Siegfried Vogt!
Drink! Drink!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another 'Lorena's Look' - More on Ebooks and Ereaders

I can't believe I forgot to post this! Here's my second Lorena's Look column from the WSU New Media Group Ning site (of course, given that Ning will no longer be hosting free groups, it probably won't be accessible for long there anyway...): Lorena's Look: Ebooks and Ereaders . It covers some of the same ground as my last blog post Kindle + Calibre (With a Dash of Samsung Moment)

Here's the original text, with a very few changes:

Is 2010 the year that ebooks and readers will finally go mainstream? There has been a lot of interest in technical and usability aspects of ereaders and the publishing issues inherent in ebooks, but perhaps the ultimate indicator of  `itness' is the publication of a Stephen King novella about a horrific ereader, Ur. For this installment of Lorena’s Look I’ll be checking out some resources relating to ebooks and ereaders - as a new Kindle owner I’ve discovered the value and productivity of reading fiction and other documents on my device, but I also have learned how ebooks and ereaders can be used by anyone with a computer or a smartphone to easily access reading material when you don’t want to carry around an actual printed book -- or bookshelf.

Ebook readers can be hardware or software. Popular hardware devices linked to online bookstores include Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook (soon to be joined by another B&N device, the Samsung E6) and Sony’s family of Readers, but there is a raft of other devices that include the Foxit eSlick ReaderIrex ILiad (not to mention Apple's forthcoming iPad). Most popular ereaders use E Ink technology that makes it very easy to read off the screen, although the iPad will have a computer-like LCD screen. The absence of backlighting and/or (in most cases) a touch screen provides an experience that allows for comfortable long-term reading activity. and the

Software readers don't have those advantages, but they have benefits of their own. Many can be used on desktops or laptops, but they are increasingly being used for reading on smartphones. Both the Kindle and the Nook have applications that work on  smartphones such as the iPhone. A cell phone screen is small, but it is surprisingly easy to read off (although battery life and tired eyes may make them better for shorter reading stints). The Kindle and Nook readers have a built-in benefit in that they are tied to the Amazon/B&N servers, and so users can pick up where they left off in a book, whether reading on their phone or their dedicated ereader.

Other free software applications include Stanza and MobiPocket Reader (both owned by Amazon, actually) -- both of these can be used on desktops/laptops as well as smartphones. Many other ereading programs are available as free or paid applications that can be downloaded for particular cellphone flavors.

Converting and Managing E-books and E-Documents

Ebooks are files, and like all files they exist in many different file formats which can be read by particular devices. The closest thing to standard formats are the PDF, Mobi, and EPub formats, which are widely used. Due to the lack of an official file format compatibility standard and the intellectual property issues of Digital Rights Management (DRM), file formats can be a big headache. Amazon's Kindle, for example, has its own proprietary format, AZW, and if you purchase an ebook from Amazon it will come in that format. AZW is a actually a slight variation on the Mobi file format, however, so Kindles can read documents that are Mobi files. The Kindle does not support the EPUB standard, although the Nook does. So what to do? If you have an ebook or edocument that has DRM content, there is nothing you can legally do except read it on the reading platform it is meant for (i.e. if you bought it from Amazon it can only be read on the Kindle; if it is an Adobe Digital Editions file, it has to be read in that interface. However, if your document does not have DRM attached, you can convert it from one file format to another so that it can be read on different devices.

Under my office desk I have a stack of PDF printouts that somehow I have never gotten around to reading. Now that I have a Kindle, I no longer print out my PDFs, but instead convert them so that I can easily read them on my device (there is a significant caveat, however; as the college students who participated in Amazon's textbook trial noted: the lack of an easy way to annotate documents on the Kindle limits its use). I could email them to Amazon to be converted to a form that my Kindle 2 will easily read -- for free if I drag'n'drop them on to my Kindle myself, or for a small fee if I have it done automatically via Amazon's WhisperNet -- but I've discovered that in most cases I'd rather do it myself.

There are a number of ways to convert ebook file formats, but I'm going to briefly mention just two of them. Calibre and MobiPocket Reader/Creator allow you to not only convert file formats but also store, organize, and manage your ebook files. I use Calibre, and with it I can import a document, for example an out-of-copyright book I downloaded from Google Books in the EPUB format, or an article PDF I found online or in a library database, or even a Word document I created myself (although I have to convert Word files to RTF or HTML documents first). I can convert it to the Mobi file format (or vice versa) and add in my own metadata, including complete bibliographic data and tags that will allow me to easily filter and sort my Calibre library. I can then easily export it to my Kindle -- and I have a backup saved on my computer. Later on I may choose to delete the item from my Kindle, but its always available on my computer if I want to read it again. Calibre can also automatically download updated blog posts for ereader viewing, and has its own built-in ereader if I wanted to use it (I don't - if I were going to read an ebook on my computer I would prefer to use Stanza or Kindle for Windows). Calibre also works with smartphone applications, including WordPlayer on the Android platform and Stanza on the iPhone/iPod Touch. I have to admit that the formatting can be a bit awkward, but I find that that rarely gets in the way of my reading experience.

Ebook Sources

WSU Libraries
The Libraries does purchase ebooks in a number of formats, including NetLibrary, Ebrary, EBL and others. Unfortunately these formats generally do not allow downloading and must be read on your computer screen (yes, we know...

Free Sources
Google Books(for out of copyright) – epub and pdf
And many others...
Note: These sources provide out-of-copyright works or works that have been made publicly available by their rightsholders. There is considerable content overlap, but books from different sources may have noticeable differences in the quality of their formatting.

Free and (Some) Free
Publishers with proprietary hardware: Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Further Reading
Giz Explains How You're Gonna Get Screwed by Ebook Formats - This is an excellent explanation of file formats and more - read it and weep...

How Can I Create EPUB files from my Books? - a good overview of conversion utilities

Hamlet's Blackberry: Why Paper is Eternal (Soon to be expanded and published as a book - this essay is very much worth reading!) This version of William Powers' essay is from Scribd and can be downloaded as a PDF or TXT file or sent to many ereading devices directly: See the upper left corner when you click on the book:
E-Books Must Be Accessible(from the Chronicle of Higher Education; if you are off the WSU campus network you will need to go through the WSU Libraries proxy server in order to read the full article) - Provides an overview of some issues relating to accessibility.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kindle + Calibre (with a dash of Samsung Moment...)

So last Christmas Mark gave me a Kindle. I warily charged it up, bought a book from Amazon (downloaded almost immediately via Whispernet) and started reading. Within minutes I had forgotten I was reading from a device, and I was just reading. A lot. Three months later I absolutely love my Kindle (its all about the eye-friendly E Ink and long battery life), and I love its features (especially landscape viewing and that wonderful font resizer). I also love the bare-bones browser -- it comes in handy every so often (for example, before I bought my Android app phone I used it to check in to FourSquare). I love it reading in bed, and I love it when I'm travelling. I've bought some books from Amazon and no doubt will buy many more in the future, but I'm kinda cheap, so I've been focusing on finding free books (mostly older out of copyright books) from Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive and newer books from combination free/pay ebook publishers and aggregator sites, including Amazon itself. (Even the free Amazon books have DRM, I should note, however).

I also use my Kindle to read articles and other books/documents - mainly PDFs, although some come in other file formats (for example, many free books come in the EPUB format). While the Kindle can read native PDFs it really doesn't do it well on the Kindle 2 (no font changing or text-to-speech) so I convert my PDFs to the Mobi format so the Kindle can easily read them. I use an amazing free program called Calibre. Calibre enables me to convert to and from a wide range of non-DRMed file formats (individually or in bulk) and it also allows me to manage and sync my documents directly to my Kindle or other ereader; it has other features that include adding or fixing metadata, keeping a document library archive on my computer, and even downloading and converting websites, newspaper sites, or blogs automatically (check out its features here). I generally plug my Kindle into my computer to add items to my Kindle via autosync and USB, but I could also use its content server to access my items online, or have them sent to my Kindle outside of Amazon's system.Calibre works with pretty much all ebook devices/readers, including the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony Reader(s) and comes with its own integrated ebook viewer.

While the Kindle does have a keyboard and can highlight, clip and annotate texts, it's a bit clunky. So most of the items I read on it are recreational reading (mainly fiction) and PDF or Word documents (Calibre doesn't do MS Word, so I have to first convert Word files to RTF or Open Office format) that I don't feel the need to manually mark up. To be honest, that is pretty much all of them these days...I have a huge pile of printouts under my desk at work that I never quite managed to read pre-Kindle. Now I rarely print out article PDFs any more unless I know I will want a print copy for a particular purpose - I send them to my Kindle, and then I actually read them (sometimes I lazily use Amazon's service that allows me to email PDFs and have them converted and downloaded automatically via Whispernet- its actually pretty cheap!).

I can read those documents on my cell phone as well, and Calibre facilitates that too. The Kindle has applications for the desktops/laptops and for the BlackBerry, iPhone/Touch, and iPad (I think? Yup) and although it does not yet have an Android application, I use the WordPlayer app - it doesn't work with the Kindle, but it does work with Calibre, so I can read all my non-Amazon stuff  if I wanted. Do I? I confess I was very skeptical, but I have been reading Cory Doctorow's Little Brother on my Samsung Moment using WordPlayer, and I'm happily surprised at how easily its going along.

Now that I have my Kindle-Moment-Calibre troika, I have found that it has positively affected my ability to keep up with professional articles from a wide range of sources, and has enhanced my down-time reading. I've been having a blast working my way through old favorite authors, and discovering new ones, I think this summer I'm doing to work my way through Trollope, and maybe read Galsworthy's Forsyte books again. I'm kinda addicted to reading, and while I still read paper books (fondly known as Dead Tree Books (DTB) in the Kindle community) I appreciate the convenience of my new alternatives.

Some link love:
  • SFBags/WaterField makes a great sleeve case for the Kindle- I have one with a strap, so I can carry my Kindle like a purse if I want.
  • I've dressed my Kindle with a decal from  DecalGal - I choose the burlwood option
  • There are some excellent ebook blogs that I will add here later...

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Little Blogging on the Side: wsu worldcat and Lorena's Look: Screen Reading tools...

I've been added as a co-blogger to the new wsu worldcat blog - you can read more about it and what it is all about in its intro post . I'm really excited about WSU WorldCat (the resource) as well as talking about it on wsu worldcat (the blog)!

As long as I'm talking about wsu worldcat, I might as well mention that I've started writing an every-so-often column for the WSU New Media Group Ning site called "Lorena's Look."
I can't link directly to it (right now its at the bottom of the page, but I'm sure it will be replaced by something else pretty soon) so I'm going to grab the content and paste it in here:

Lorena’s Look: HTML Screen Reading

These days many of us do a fair amount of reading online – news and journal articles, long texty HTML documents, etc. The problem is that reading from your computer screen for longer than five minutes is not very much fun. Over the past year, I’ve found a few tools that can make the HTML online reading experience much better.

Readability; (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari) lets you customize your reading experience (style, font size, and page margin). Go to the free site, then drag the bookmarklet to your browser bar (it’s a little different for IE, actually – you will need to right click on your mouse). When you are about to read from a Web site, click the link in your browser bar, and it will delete any advertisements, increase the margins, and increase white space to make the reading process much more comfortable. You’ll see three icons in the upper left corner; these enable you to reload the original page, print the page, or email the page.

Not all Web pages work with Readability, and if it is a page that continues through additional page links (like many newspaper pages) you will need to reload the original page, go to the next page, and click the Readability bookmarklet again. Alternatively (and preferably) look for a print option that presents the article all on one page, and then click on the bookmarklet.

Readability has many admirers (including New York Times technology writer David Pogue, who named it one of the year’s best tech ideas for 2009 , but there are alternatives. Tidy Read;( Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, iPhone/Touch) operates in a very similar fashion but provides customization options for each page it is used on. The Printliminator and Clippable allow you to choose particular parts of the Web page to modify. The Printliminator was originally intended to clean up printouts, but can be used for reading ease as well.

Now that you have installed Readability, TidyRead, Printliminator or Clippable (try them all out to see which one you like best!) you can make your reading even easier by eliminating the need to scroll down the page through the use of Autoscroll; (Firefox, Safari, maybe Internet Explorer). This bookmarklet will automatically move the screen forward at a pace you set using numbers (1 is very slow and 9 is pretty fast).

Heads-up: I received a Kindle as a Christmas present, so my next column for WSU’s New Media Group will discuss free ebook tools and resources.