I’m a geek, but love books first and foremost (# 2)

Introduction

This is the second in a series of posts [1][2][3] that explain just how much I love reading, especially books. I’m a technologist, a digital media consumer, a gamer — but first and foremost, a reader. I often feel the need to justify this love, being involved in an industry that’s undergoing great changes – and being, to some, a representative of the great Disruption.

Ogre No-Grr: Practical Childhood Lexicography

Cover of Ogre, Ogre, the fifth book in the Xanth series by Piers Anthony

The first series of books [of which I exhausted our library’s supply] was the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. In this narrative universe, Ogres are so stupid that they can only speak in simple rhyme.

In Ogre, Ogre [Xanth Series #5], we encounter Smash the Ogre whose human ancestry tempers him slightly.

I had no idea how to pronounce “Ogre”. To me, it was the “-ogger” in “hogger”. At some stage in the story, Smash expresses his peaceful intentions towards a stranger by saying: “Ogre, no grr”. This discovery was delightful because it was a fundamental lesson in language for me, conveyed through rhyme.

This was the same kind of lesson I learned when I recalled the sound a donkey makes from an Asterix and Obelix book.

Also, to a 9 year-old still learning English, Piers used a lot of ‘big words’ in his books. I recall having the Afrikaans-English translating dictionary close to me all the time while reading his books.

Thinking about this makes me want to find out when, exactly, I borrowed the books from our library. Wouldn’t it be fascinating if my old public library still had that on record?

OpenLibrary and Overdrive for Libraries in South Africa

Update: I was made to understand that the policy I quoted is because Overdrive uses the Adobe Content Server to distribute its ebooks. I think I’m going to have to speak to actual academic libraries that use Overdrive to clarify this.

We’re having a meeting with an Overdrive representative here in South Africa this week. Overdrive started offering ebook services to public libraries in the US and is now is targeting higher education.

It’s gratifying to see that South Africa is part of their distribution platform, but there are a two things that already concern me.

1) Devices assigned to a single patron

From Overdrive’s terms of use:

You may not download Digital Content to any school media center or library Device or any other school-issued Device that allows for access by multiple users. Digital Content may be used on school-issued Devices that are issued to students under a one-to-one device program where each Device is assigned for the exclusive use by a single student.

What’s a school-issued device in this case? Any PC on University grounds, or only PCs in the library? We expect students to want to borrow ebooks on their personal devices – mobile phones, ereaders, media tablets. Can they only read Overdrive-delivered content on devices owned by the library? Does the library have to assign a reading device to each patron in order to comply with these terms?

What does access by multiple users imply? Library PCs – and most campus PCs located in computer laboratories – can be used by anyone. The only restriction is that you have to be a registered library patron / registered for a module that requires laboratory access.

2) Kindle lending – when will it be here?

Overdrive announced the ability for patrons to borrow books on their Kindles. However, this is only available in US public libraries. Assuming that Overdrive is able to serve content relevant to an academic library, when will our Kindle patrons be able to make use of this service?

Alternative to Overdrive: Open Library

Ria Groenewald mentioned the Open Library to me. It’s one of the Internet Archive’s projects (another is the Wayback Machine – check what the University of Pretoria’s web page looked like in 1997).

I’m impressed. Their premise is to provide a web page for every book ever published.

Reading through the F.A.Q., I discovered the following:

We plan to connect with a distributed lending system via the Internet Archive’s new BookServer. Stay tuned.

Here’s a presentation on BookServer, and here’s a more detailed discussion about what BookServer is.

I’m a big Google fan (Gmail has transformed email for me and my postgraduate students really liked Google Docs), but I found this quote from Chelsea’s essay very relevant to the book industry:

While it may be easy to assume that Google doesn’t have a competitor in the sphere of digitizing and cataloguing books online, BookServer is coming up fast and has many assets that Google lacks: admirable goals, transparency, and partnerships and alliances.

I also read up more about borrowing from the Open Library:

The easiest way to find books to borrow is to jump straight to the Lending Library subject page which shows works which have editions that are available through either OverDrive or the Internet Archive. We generate links through to WorldCat for many of our books to help find a physical copy near you.

So OpenLibrary isn’t an alternative to Overdrive, really. It uses Overdrive as one of its content platforms.

I’d seriously advise libraries to become familiar with both services.

I’m a geek, but love books first and foremost (# 1)

Introduction

This is the first in a series of posts [1], [2], [3] that explain just how much I love reading, especially books. I’m a technologist, a digital media consumer, a gamer – but first and foremost, a reader. I often feel the need to justify this love, being involved in an industry that’s undergoing great changes – and being, to some, a representative of the great Disruption.

Getting lost and finding books

A book on Southern African Wildlife, by the Reader's Digest Association

I was a rather curious/busy kid, which meant I often got lost in shopping centres or other public places. On one such occasion, my parents exhausted most shops a typical parent of a 4/5-year old boy would: toy shops, pet shops, sweet shops or a local game arcade (though at that time most ‘arcades’ were in corner cafés, not malls).

They eventually found me in a local news agency – browsing through the Reader’s Digest Guide to Southern African Wildlife. Unable to read properly yet, I was still adamant that I wanted this book more than anything else.

A book on Southern African Wildlife, by the Reader's Digest Association

Based on the date of publication, I must’ve received that copy after I turned seven, so I don’t think this is the actual copy I was reading as a toddler. Still, it was such a striking thing to my parents that the story is mentioned quite often during family occasions.

22 years later, I saw it again in my parents’ library and decided to take it home. This book remains a cherished object.

My mom also recalls me getting lost at some party, at age three. There was an open pool – among other sources of panic – so a search party was organized. My bawling, terror-stricken mom eventually found me lying behind a covered table paging through magazines.

Asterix and Obelix and onomatopoeia

One of my fondest reading-related memories was when I was about 5. My sister and mom were doing onomatopoeia exercises for her English homework (we spoke Afrikaans at home).

They got stuck on the sound a donkey makes. I recall looking up from my book and answering :”A donkey brays”. They were quite surprised to know I knew this – but I wasn’t. I had read it in an Asterix and Obelix novel a few days earlier!

There are many more stories like these I recall from my youth – and which I hope to share. I’ve loved the written word since I laid eyes on it.