New online service applies the ‘Netflix’ model to literacy

 

Students can monitor their own reading growth in myON, and educators can view and download reports.

 

Anyone who’s familiar with Netflix knows the online video streaming and rental service lets users rate the movies they watch, as well as their level of interest in various genres, and then delivers personalized recommendations based on this information.…Read More

Google putting its digital library to the test

Google Book Search has about 12 million books available.
Google Book Search has about 12 million books available.

Google Inc. is giving researchers nearly a half-million dollars to test the academic value of its rapidly growing online library.

The grants announced July 14 will be used to help pay for 12 humanities projects studying questions that will require sifting through thousands of books to reach meaningful conclusions.

Google is hoping the research will validate its long-held belief that making electronic copies of old books will bring greater enlightenment to the world. The company’s critics, though, have argued that the internet search leader has trampled over copyright laws to build a commanding early lead in digital books so it can boost profits.…Read More

Project puts 1 million books online for blind, dyslexic users

Even as audio versions of best-sellers fill store shelves and new technology fuels the popularity of digitized books, the number of titles accessible to people who are blind or dyslexic is minuscule. But a new service by the nonprofit Internet Archive in San Francisco is trying to change that, reports the Associated Press. The group has hired hundreds of people to scan thousands of books into its digital database, more than doubling the titles available to people who aren’t able to read a hard copy. Brewster Kahle, the organization’s founder, says the project initially will make 1 million books available to the visually impaired, using money from foundations, libraries, corporations, and the government. He’s hoping a subsequent book drive will add even more titles to the collection. “We’ll offer current novels, educational books, anything. If somebody then donates a book to the archive, we can digitize it and add it to the collection,” he said…

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University of Minnesota sends books to Google for digitization

The University of Minnesota libraries are sending their first shipment of books to be digitized to Google this month as part of the Google books project, reports the Associated Press. Among the books going to Google are volumes from the university’s noted collections related to forestry, beekeeping, Scandinavian literature, and Minnesota’s early history. The scanning project is part of a 2007 agreement between Google and the academic arm of the Big Ten Conference to digitize more than 10 million unique volumes from Big Ten libraries. Under the deal, when the scanned works are determined to be in the public domain, Google will provide the libraries with digital copies. When complete, the project will have digitized more than 1 million volumes from the University of Minnesota’s general collection.

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Fending off the ‘digital decay’ of archived resources, bit by bit

As research libraries and archives are discovering, “born-digital” materials are much more complicated and costly to preserve than anticipated, reports the New York Times. Among the archival material from Salman Rushdie currently on display at Emory University in Atlanta are inked book covers, handwritten journals, and four Apple computers. The 18 gigabytes of data they contain seemed to promise future biographers and literary scholars a digital wonderland: comprehensive, organized, and searchable files, quickly accessible with a few clicks. But like most Rushdian paradises, this digital idyll has its own set of problems. Electronically produced drafts, correspondence, and editorial comments are ultimately just a series of digits written on floppy disks, CDs, and hard drives—all of which degrade much faster than old-fashioned, acid-free paper. Even if those storage media do survive, the relentless march of technology can mean that the older equipment and software that can make sense of all those 0’s and 1’s simply don’t exist anymore. All of this means that archivists are finding themselves trying to fend off digital extinction at the same time they are puzzling through questions about what to save, how to save it, and how to make that material accessible. “It’s certainly one of those issues that keeps a lot of people awake at night,” said Anne Van Camp, the director of the Smithsonian Institution Archives and a member of a task force on the economics of digital preservation formed by the National Science Foundation, among others…

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Publishers win a bout in eBook Price Fight

With the impending arrival of digital books on the Apple iPad and feverish negotiations with Amazon.com over e-book prices, publishers have managed to take some control–at least temporarily–of how much consumers pay for their content, reports the New York Times. Now, as publishers enter discussions with the Web giant Google about its plan to sell digital versions of new books direct to consumers, they have a little more leverage than just a few weeks ago–at least when it comes to determining how Google will pay publishers for those e-books and how much consumers will pay for them.

Google has been talking about entering the direct eBook market, through a program it calls Google Editions, for nearly a year. But in early discussions with publishers, Google had proposed giving them a 63 percent cut of the suggested retail price, and allowing consumers to print copies of the digital books and cut and paste segments. After Apple unveiled the iPad last month, publishers indicated that Apple would give them 70 percent of the consumer price, which publishers would set.

According to several publishers who have been talking to Google, the book companies had balked at what they saw as Google’s less generous terms, and basically viewed printing and cut-and-paste as deal breakers……Read More

Electronic books now come in snack sizes

Who has time to read a whole book anymore? That’s the thinking behind a new publishing venture by the FT Press, a unit of Pearson, which has introduced two series of short, digital-only titles for professionals who want quick snippets of advice for $2.99 or less, reports the New York Times. The publisher, through a new imprint named FT Press Delivers, has quietly begun selling what it is calling Elements and Shorts through the Kindle electronic bookstore on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s e-bookstore. The Elements, which the publisher has priced at $1.99, are stripped-down, 1,000- to 2,000-word versions of already-published books, while the Shorts are newly written essays of about 5,000 words, priced at $2.99. Titles include “Reengineering the Rules of Management,” by James Champy, the co-author, with Michael Hammer, of “Reengineering the Corporation,” one of the biggest business best sellers of the 1990s, and “Keeping It Honest, From Kitchen to Coca-Cola,” by Seth Goldman, co-founder and chief of Honest Tea, the maker of organic drinks. “It’s a good idea to be able to provide people with shorter, more expedient, more time-sensitive” content, said Timothy C. Moore, publisher of the FT Press…

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Can Apple’s tablet spark a textbook revolution?

Educators expect the Apple tablet screen to be much larger than the iPhone display.
Educators expect the Apple tablet screen to be much larger than the iPhone display.

Can the release of Apple’s eReader tablet do for textbooks what the iPod did for music: combine an online store for purchasing books with sleek hardware that holds every text a student needs?

That’s the question many educators are asking as anticipation of Apple’s new tablet mounts.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is widely expected to unveil his company’s eReader Jan. 27 in San Francisco, and industry insiders expect the product to have a large touch screen that is smaller than a laptop screen but larger than an iPhone.…Read More