26 May 2011

Musings on ebooks

Even though I've posted a couple of times about ebooks, I'm by no means an expert.  If you want one of those take a look at Librarian in Black or Andy Woodworth or Jason Griffey.  Me? I just have an opinion on what I like and don't like.  And really I don't like the fact that most of the publishers seem to be living in the confines of the 16th century.  But instead of ranting about what publishers aren't doing I thought I'd point out the one publisher that I've noticed that is actually living in the present.  

I've been doing book reviews for O'Reilly's blogger program in part because I like O'Reilly's books (one of the best computer science publishers out there in my opinion) but more than that, because of there stance on ebooks  for personal use. (I make the distinction because they do have a database platform for libraries, but I'm not discussing that here)

For starters they make this statement when you look at your account:
You get lifetime access to ebooks you purchase through oreilly.com. Whenever possible we provide them to you in five DRM-free file formats — PDF, ePub, Kindle-compatible .mobi, DAISY, and Android .apk — that you can use on the devices of your choice. Our ebooks are enhanced with color images, even when the print version is black and white. They are fully searchable, and you can cut-and-paste and print them. We also alert you when we've updated your ebooks with corrections and additions.
First off notice that statement in bold.  Lifetime access.  No cut offs, no you can only download this x number of times and then you have to buy it again.  Lifetime.  Your computer crashes and burns, download the book again.  Need it at work? Download it again.  Need I say more?

Then notice that second statement:  "Whenever possible we provide them to you in five DRM-free file formats — PDF, ePub, Kindle-compatible .mobi, DAISY, and Android .apk."  Now they can't always do this, and I can look at books that I've bought and sometimes there are only two formats available (or just one) but I'm almost always finding at least the PDF format that I can take anywhere.  And no DRM.  None.  Any device that I have that can read PDF can read the file.

And even better when you purchase a physical copy of a book they give you the option of upgrading to an ebook for $5. (I think it should be for free, but still...how many other publishers are doing this?)   Think about that...for $5 more you get the physical book and the ebook.  And the ebook you can have access to anywhere in the world and you don't have to worry about it being destroyed.  How cool is that?

The only real compliant I have is the cost of the ebook, but...I get it they have to make a living so I won't discuss it.

Now surely this cost O'reilly a bit of extra time and a bit of extra money to do this, so why would they?  And here I'm just speculating, but could it be because they realize not all of their readers are alike?  Yes it's a technology company, but they publish books that anyone can use.  Guides to how to use software or operating systems, the Missing Manual series, and even books on public speaking.  They get that their readers are coming from all walks of life and have different ideas of how they want to access their books and they don't want to be limited to one device.  They are thinking about the future and what they can do to make their customers happy so that they keep coming back again and again (and yes the quality of the book matters as well, but so doe this.) 

So why won't other publishers do this?  You know...I'm not really sure.  Sure it might cost them a bit more, but what does it cost them in customer loyalty?  What does it cost them to aggravate their users who can't read in the format they want it in or on the device they want it on? I wonder...

23 May 2011

Unconferences Presentation Recording

Last Wednesday (5/18) I did a webinar on Unconferences for the GLA Carterette Series and just for those of you that are interested below is my slidedeck and a link to the recorded session (where you can hear just how goofy I really sound.)  More than happy to answer questions so feel free to ask.

Link to recorded session.

You can find other sessions from the Carterette webinar series here, which includes some great presentations by Robin Fay, Sarah Steiner, Jason Puckett, Emily Almond (who did a fantastic presentation the same day I did mine), and more great presenters so go take a look...you might find one that catches your eye.

22 May 2011

Where I want to go

I've been reflecting on where I want to take my library career in the future and at the same time looking at what I've done in the past.  So these are my musings/thoughts/ramblings/something about where I've been and where I'd like to go (or at least where I'm thinking of going.)

My career in libraries began back in undergraduate at Dacus Library, Winthrop University.  I was a student assistant with something like 6 hours a week (half of which in the beginning I spent cleaning out toner bottles) my freshman year and by the time I graduated 4ish years later I was the weekend supervisor working 20 hours a week.  I should have known then that the library world wouldn't let me go, but I was foolish and looked elsewhere for a MA in Art History.  Even while working on that one of the Art History professor's suggested I get the MLIS...but did I listen?  Nope...at least not at the time.  After I abandoned the MA in Art History I decided to get a job a job back in the library world, this time as a staff person.

So I headed to Johns Hopkins University as the Weekend/Evening Support Services person...which basically meant if it was related to the stacks, building, copiers, or problem patrons I got to deal with it.  And I loved the variety of the job!  I got to do so many different things from dealing with building issues, to training students, to dealing with malfunctioning copiers and everything in between.  I was never bored...but I hated the fact that I couldn't actually make any changes.  I didn't have that piece of paper that said MLIS on it.  So...after almost 2 years at Hopkins I headed to University of South Carolina to get my MLIS through their distance education program. 

I worked on my MLIS at USC and worked a couple of PT jobs, including one as a reference assistant at USC Upstate.  And here one of the reference librarians suggested that I focus on technology, since it was something that I seemed to enjoy so much and I was always trying out new things online.  Did I listen?  Nope...not really (notice a reoccurring pattern here?)  I finished my MLIS in a year so I could have the shiny piece of paper and I didn't really consider what it was that I wanted to do other than be a librarian and the only thing I was sure of is that I didn't want to work in cataloging.  With that grand plan in mind I secured a job working at Tarver Library, Mercer University.

I've blogged before about my job at Tarver.  I've been Circulation/Interlibrary Loan Librarian, Learning Commons/Emerging Technologies/Interlibrary Loan Librarian, and my current job title Emerging Technologies & Services/Interlibrary Loan Librarian.  And I like this last iteration of my job title the most.  I have the most chance to play and try new things...most of the time at least.  And of course there are projects that I have to get done and sometimes they end up taking more time and energy than I would like, but that's part of work right? 

But...over the last few years I'm starting to think the librarian at USC Upstate had the right idea.  My passion is technology.  Not just the systems aspect of it (which I've gotten to do a bit of) and coding, but how patrons use it.  How do they use the computers we have, where do they sit to use their laptops, what can we do to improve all of this?  And this is where I want to take my career.  I love some of the flexibility that I have at my current job, but I don't get to play with technology every day (and yes my job title is Emerging Technologies)...I want to take my career more towards the systems side of things or a job where I can have more of an impact with how patrons use the technology we have (and I have some of this at my current position, just not as much as I'd like.)

And even though occasionally a job pops up that I never considered before, like working at the Smithsonian or something that has nothing to do with technology, my passion really is that.  I've been spending more time trying to improve my technology skills by:
  • doing some basic HTML/CSS coding just to keep my skills up
  • Improving my PHP/MySQL 
  • Improving my Javascript/jQuery 
  • Picking up new languages, like python and django
  • Figuring out how to install and use so many of the different free programs out there
  • Thinking of new ideas...
  • I'm thinking about getting a master's in computer science (or IT)...once I find fuding
 and I'm keeping my eyes open for other opportunities.  And that's where I am at the moment.

Book Review--Book of CSS3

Book of CSS3  
by Peter Gasston
No Starch Press 

I was provided access by O'Reilly Publishing to an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Peter writes the book as if you already have experience using and understanding basic CSS concepts and HTML, so if you're looking for a book to teach you CSS then you'll want a different guide.  If however, you want a book that shows you some of the features of CSS3 you're in the right place.  Peter has been writing about CSS3 for over 5 years and in this book he covers some features of CSS3.  Each chapter covers a new feature of CSS3, how to use it in clear and easy to understand code to follow, and which browsers currently support the feature.  Some of the features covered include media queries--which is useful in designing websites for both full screen and mobile use; using gradients with color backgrounds; and 3D transformation, such as having an image rotate around an axis.  The book is also accompanied by a website for future updates and an appendix with online resources to use, learn, and test CSS3.

I really like how this book is written and laid out.  Peter does a good job of explaining in simple, easy to understand language what's going on with the feature being discussed and how to replicate the feature using the code provided in the examples.  He walks through it step by step, explaining it in simple easy to understand language--no deciphering of incomprehensible technical speak here.  While he can't highlight every feature, Peter has chosen the ones that are likely to be most useful at this time (and are the most developed/accepted), such as media queries for mobile use, the transitions and animations, gradients, etc.  The appendixes are also helpful as one covers what features are supported by what browsers (even though this duplicates what's at the end of the chapters it's nice to have it one place) and an appendix on various web tools that help you generate code as well as test it.

Even though not all of the features can be used at the time, its still a useful book and a handy reference to have around.  Highly recommend it.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

17 May 2011

Unconference Webinar by me

A bit late...but I'm doing a webinar on unconference's tomorrow for the GLA Carterette Series tomorrow (May 18).  It's completely free and you can still register and attend.  The pertinent information is listed below:

(borrowed from: http://gla.georgialibraries.org/mediawiki/index.php/Carterette_Series_Webinars)

Unconference Planning
Presented by Andrew Shuping
May 18, 2011

(Separate registration is required for each hour-long session.)
Unconference Planning: Have you heard about unconferences? No idea what they are or why they’re different from regular conferences? Are you interested in knowing more? Come find out what an unconference is, ways to organize it, and what the benefits are for having an unconference vs. a conference.
Officially, Andrew Shuping is the Emerging Technologies & Services/ILL Librarian at Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University in Macon, GA, but he is also in charge of various other things, both official and unofficial. He's been involved in libraries for over 10 years and is constantly keeping an eye out for new ways to make use of technology to serve libraries. Andrew owns two mischievous cats, orders graphic novels for the library, and is an avid reader of sci-fi. He can be found on various social networks as ashuping, and his webpage can be found at http://ashuping.net.

15 May 2011

Book Review--Javascript: The Definitive Guide the 6th Edition

Javascript: The Definitive Guide the 6th Edition
by David Flanagan
O'Reilly Press  2011

I was provided access by O'Reilly Publishing to an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

This is an updated edition to the classic reference book on Javascript to include new information on new standards (such as HTML5 and CSS3), conventions, and frameworks.   Although it is possible to learn Javascript from this book, its really meant more as a reference guide and an explanation of how and why Javascript works the way it does.  For example, the 1st chapter explains in some detail how Javascript works on the client side and how each of the following chapters will relate to this.  The book includes numerous examples of codes to illustrate the concepts and explains the concepts in a clear, easy to follow fashion that doesn't require a degree in astrophysics to understand.

As I said it's not really a book to learn Javascript from, for that I would recommend something like "Head First Javascript" (also by O'Reilly press.)  What I do really like about this book is that it is comprehensive in what is possible with Javascript.  While it may not cover the concept in depth, such as the chapter on Jquery, it does give a starting point to the concept.  I know it sounds odd, but I really liked the index.  It is completely through and easy to find the concept or word that I need to make something work correctly in whatever I'm writing.  It's even better with the book because of the hyperlinks that take you right to the section.

My advice? Buy the ebook version, it's much easier to search and to follow to specific links vs. trying to find the stuff in the print edition.  Even better, O'Reilly provides multiple formats of the book to suit your needs.  Overall, it's a good handy reference to have around to answer questions and introduce new concepts.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program