Posts Tagged ‘ebooks’

The Legacy of Michael S. Hart

September 16th, 2011

ship sinking into a whirlpool near the Lone Tower

Sometimes people are important to you not for who they are, but for what they do. Michael S. Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg, is one such person. While I never met him, Michael’s work has definitely impacted my life: The last book I finished1, like most of my fiction reading over the past 3 years, was a public domain ebook. I love the illustrations.

KENBAK-1 from 1971

The first personal computer: KENBAK-1 (1971)

In 1971, the idea of pleasure reading on screens must have been novel. The personal computer had just been invented; a KENBAK-1 would set you back $750 — equivalent to $4200 in 2011 dollars2.

Xerox Sigma V-SDS mainframe

Xerox Sigma V-SDS mainframe

Project Gutenberg’s first text — the U.S. Declaration of Independence — was keyed into a mainframe, about one month after Unix was first released34. That mainframe, a Xerox Sigma V, was one of the first 15 computers on the Internet (well, technically, ARPANET)5. Project Gutenberg is an echo of the generosity of some UIUC sysadmins: The first digital library began a gift back to the world in appreciation of access to that computer.

Thanks, Michael.

Originally via @muttinmall

  1. The Book of Dragons, by Edith Nesbit: highly recommended, especially if you like silly explanations or fairy tales with morals. []
  2. CPI Inflation Calculator []
  3. Computer history timeline 1960-1980 []
  4. Project Gutenberg Digital Library Seeks To Spur Literacy:
    Library hopes to offer 1 million electronic books in 100 languages
    , 2007-07-20, Jeffrey Thomas []
  5. Amazingly, this predated NCSA. You can see the building–Thomas Siebel–hosting the node thanks to a UIUC Communication Technology and Society class assignment []

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Posted in books and reading, future of publishing, information ecosystem, library and information science | Comments (0)

QOTD: Stop crippling ebooks: invent new business models instead

May 16th, 2011

Holding on to old business models is not the way to endear yourself to customers.

But unfortunately this is also, simultaneously, a bad time to be a reader. Because the dinosaurs still don’t get it. Ten years of object lessons from the music industry, and they still don’t get it. We have learned, painfully, that media consumers—be they listeners, watchers, or readers—want one of two things:

  • DRM-free works for a reasonable price
  • or, unlimited single-payment subscription to streaming/DRMed works

Give them either of those things, and they’ll happily pay. Look at iTunes. Look at Netflix. But give them neither, and they’ll pirate. So what are publishers doing?

  • Refusing to sell DRM-free books. My debut novel will be re-e-published by the Friday Project imprint of HarperCollins UK later this year; both its editor and I would like it to be published without DRM; and yet I doubt we will be able to make that happen.
  • crippling library e-books
  • and not offering anything even remotely like a subscription service.

– Jon Evans, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Books, via James Bridle’s Stop Press

Eric Hellman is one of the pioneers of tomorrow’s ebook business models: his company, Gluejar, uses a crowdfunding model to re-release books under Creative Commons licenses. Authors and publishers are paid; fans pay for the books they’re most interested in; and everyone can read and distribute the resulting “unglued” ebooks. Everybody wins.

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Extended deadline for STLR 2011

April 29th, 2011

We’ve extended the STLR 2011 deadline due to several requests; submissions are now due May 8th.

JCDL workshops are split over two half-days, and we are lucky enough to have *two* keynote speakers: Bernhard Haslhofer of the University of Vienna and Cathy Marshall of Microsoft Research.

Consider submitting!

The 1st Workshop on Semantic Web Technologies for Libraries and Readers

STLR 2011

June 16 (PM) & 17 (AM) 2011
Co-located with the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) 2011 Ottawa, Canada

While Semantic Web technologies are successfully being applied to library catalogs and digital libraries, the semantic enhancement of books and other electronic media is ripe for further exploration. Connections between envisioned and emerging scholarly objects (which are doubtless social and semantic) and the digital libraries in which these items will be housed, encountered, and explored have yet to be made and implemented. Likewise, mobile reading brings new opportunities for personalized, context-aware interactions between reader and material, enriched by information such as location, time of day and access history.

This full-day workshop, motivated by the idea that reading is mobile, interactive, social, and material, will be focused on semantically enhancing electronic media as well as on the mobile and social aspects of the Semantic Web for electronic media, libraries and their users. It aims to bring together practitioners and developers involved in semantically enhancing electronic media (including documents, books, research objects, multimedia materials and digital libraries) as well as academics researching more formal aspects of the interactions between such resources and their users. We also particularly invite entrepreneurs and developers interested in enhancing electronic media using Semantic Web technologies with a user-centered approach.

We invite the submission of papers, demonstrations and posters which describe implementations or original research that are related (but are not limited) to the following areas of interest:

  • Strategies for semantic publishing (technical, social, and economic)
  • Approaches for consuming semantic representations of digital documents and electronic media
  • Open and shared semantic bookmarks and annotations for mobile and device-independent use
  • User-centered approaches for semantically annotating reading lists and/or library catalogues
  • Applications of Semantic Web technologies for building personal or context-aware media libraries
  • Approaches for interacting with context-aware electronic media (e.g. location-aware storytelling, context-sensitive mobile applications, use of geolocation, personalization, etc.)
  • Applications for media recommendations and filtering using Semantic Web technologies
  • Applications integrating natural language processing with approaches for semantic annotation of reading materials
  • Applications leveraging the interoperability of semantic annotations for aggregation and crowd-sourcing
  • Approaches for discipline-specific or task-specific information sharing and collaboration
  • Social semantic approaches for using, publishing, and filtering scholarly objects and personal electronic media


*EXTENDED* Paper submission deadline: May 8th 2011
Acceptance notification: June 1st 2011
Camera-ready version: June 8th 2011



Each submission will be independently reviewed by 2-3 program committee members.


  • Alison Callahan, Dept of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
  • Dr. Michel Dumontier, Dept of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
  • Jodi Schneider, DERI, NUI Galway, Ireland
  • Dr. Lars Svensson, German National Library


Please use PDF format for all submissions. Semantically annotated versions of submissions, and submissions in novel digital formats, are encouraged and will be accepted in addition to a PDF version.
All submissions must adhere to the following page limits:
Full length papers: maximum 8 pages
Demonstrations: 2 pages
Posters: 1 page
Use the ACM template for formatting:
Submit using EasyChair:

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Posted in future of publishing, library and information science, PhD diary, scholarly communication, semantic web, social semantic web | Comments (2)

Making provenance pay

December 19th, 2010

Provenance, Dan Conover says, can drive the adoption of semantic technologies:

Imagine a global economy in which every piece of information is linked directly to its meaning and origin. In which queries produce answers, not expensive, time-consuming evaluation tasks. Imagine a world in which reliable, intelligent information structures give everyone an equal ability to make profitable decisions, or in many cases, profitable new information products. Imagine companies that get paid for the information they generate or collect based on its value to end users, rather than on the transitory attention it generates as it passes across a screen before disappearing into oblivion.

Now imagine copyright and intellectual property laws that give us practical ways of tracing the value of original contributions and collecting and distributing marginal payments across vast scales.

That’s the Semantic Economy.

– Dan Conover on the semantic economy (my emphasis added).
via Bora Zivkovic on Twitter

I wonder if he’s seen the W3 Provenance XG Final Report yet. Two parts are particularly relevant: the dimensions of provenance and the news aggregator scenario. Truly making provenance pay will require both Management of provenance (especially Access and Scale) and Content provenance around Attribution.

Go read the rest of what Dan Conover says about the semantic economy. Pay particular attention to the end: Dan says that he’s working on a functional spec for a Semantic Content Management System — a RDF-based middleware so easy that writers and editors will want to use it. I know you’re thinking of Drupal and of the Semantic Desktop; we’ll see how he’s differentiating: He invites further conversation.

I’m definitely going to have a closer look at his ideas: I like the way he thinks, and this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed his ideas for making Linked Data profitable.

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Posted in future of publishing, information ecosystem, PhD diary, scholarly communication, semantic web | Comments (0)

Ebook pricing fail (Springer edition)

November 1st, 2010

I wrote Springer to ask about buying an ebook that’s not in our university subscriptions. They sell the print copy at €62.95, but the electronic copy comes to €425, chapter by chapter.

Publishers: this is short-sighted (not to mention frustrating)–especially when your customers are looking for a portable copy of a book they already owns!

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Springerlink, Support, Springer DE
Date: Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 8:46 PM
Subject: WG: ebook pricing

Dear Jodi,

Thank you for your message.

On SpringerLink you can purchase online single journal articles and book chapters, but no complete ebooks.
eBooks are sold by Springer in topical eBook packages only.

with kind regards,
SpringerLink Support Team
eProduct Management & Innovation | SpringerLink Operations | + 49 (06221) 4878 743

—–Original Message—–
From: Jodi Schneider
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2010 5:09 PM
To: MetaPress Support
Subject: ebook pricing


I’m interested in buying a copy of [redacted] as an ebook:[redacted]

This book has 17 chapters, which seem to be priced at 25 EUR each = 425 EUR.

But I could buy a print version, new at for 62.95 EUR:[redacted]

Can you help me get the ebook at this price?

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Posted in books and reading, future of publishing | Comments (3)