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Electronic reader news

April 14th, 2011 by Chris Strauber

Story the First

Amazon launched an ad-supported Kindle (the loathsomely-named “Kindle With Special Offers“) this week. In exchange for $25 off the purchase price of the wifi model you’ll see ads on the screensaver page and in your table of contents…thankfully not within the book itself.

Story the Second

While looking for dictionaries in the Android App Market I came across a few electronic books by major publishers at really spectacular prices. Like Peter Knox’s Companion to Ovid, which Wiley-Blackwell is selling for the princely sum of $169.99. Amazon has it for the Kindle at $148.14, or in hardback for $164.60. I am happy to report that we still beat them on price. But this marks a change–the last time I checked for books like these, none of the ebooksellers had them.

Bonus Story

Harper Collins announced a couple of months ago that they would force libraries to buy new copies of ebooks which were checked out more than 26 times. Libraries and librarians were displeased. Some are calling for a boycott.


The good news is that ebooks are now a big enough market that publishers are starting to take them seriously. The bad news is that many are trying to use electronic means to limit traditional library rights, or to force electronic products into models designed for printed objects. Explain to me, for example, why it makes any sense at all to “check out” a stream of ones and zeroes with no physical form. There’s no reason to limit it to one user at a time…except for publishers’ reluctance to change their business model to suit new realities. Hang with us while we all explore some new options.

New York Times at Tisch

March 28th, 2011 by Chris Strauber

The New York Times has launched its newest experiment in building a new business model for the web. Which is to say that you can read 20 articles per month for free, but then you’ll be politely but firmly encouraged to subscribe. Print subscribers (any subscription, even Sunday only) get free access to the web version. For $15 per four weeks you can get access to the website and their smartphone applications for iPhone and Android. For $20 you get the website plus their iPad application. For $35 you get the website, the tablet edition, and the smartphone edition. All of these plans are currently 99 cents for the first four weeks. And you can still subscribe on the Kindle for $20 per month (I suspect the premium there is for lack of advertising).

Confused? Here are Tisch’s free options.

And, for traditionalists, we have print and/or microfilm coverage as well. The microfilm includes some material contributed by freelancers which had to be pulled from electronic editions after the Tasini decision.

How are our versions different? Proquest allows you to look at full-page images, so you can see what the original context of the story was, and it has good options for precise searches and browsing by date. Academic Onefile is also browseable by date. Lexis-Nexis is purely text, and search-only. I use all three for different types of searches.

Which I suppose is mildly confusing, but we compete well on price.

Updates (3/29/11)

My colleague Martha Kelehan, our social sciences bibliographer, reminds me we also have access (1980-present) through Factiva. It has a convenient dashboard of major US news sources like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times set up to allow you to see the headlines for each section and click through to read them.

Amazon reports that Kindle subscribers will have full access to the NY Times website.

Additional Update (7/28/11)

Tufts qualifies for the discounted college readership digital subscription option, which runs $7.50 per month for web and smartphone access.

Kindle Singles: Return of the Pamphlet

February 1st, 2011 by Chris Strauber

Amazon launched a new publishing platform last week for writing which falls in the space between article-length and book-length.  Called Kindle Singles, it’s designed to showcase (and provide a way to sell) writing that doesn’t quite fit into conventional publishing buckets. Wired is calling it a savior of long-form journalism, and in fact the Single I read last night is a lengthy history of the organizers of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai and their connections with Pakistani intelligence. There are also stories on parenting by Jodi Picoult, an essay on evil, and a couple of dozen other things.

From a scholarly angle, I am wonder if it could also provide a venue for a return of the wonderful variety of non-book things which were printed before the invisible hand of the market had worked out categories like newspapers and journals and novels and monographs. See for example the Thomason Tracts in Early English Books Online, which Tufts is lucky enough to have. Books are the length they are because

It would be lovely not to have these things published just for Kindle, though you can now download the Kindle software onto anything more intelligent than a toaster (OK, just Macs, PCs, and most advanced phones, but still). So it’s tied to Amazon, though not to a particular device. But if Amazon demonstrates a market for this kind of writing, there may be some potential here.

James I and Lions

January 25th, 2011 by Chris Strauber

Just spent a delightful hour listening to Hesse Phillips, a dissertation fellow with the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, explain some of her work on animal baiting as a scientific and personal interest of James I. The talk, “A Trial of Two Kings: James I and the Lions of the Tower Menagerie” is one in a series of lunchtime talks hosted by the Center.

There was much mention of Edward Topsell’s seventeenth-century History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents, which I am delighted to see Tufts has a microfilm copy of. For your web-browsing pleasure, you might also take a look at the University of Houston’s collection of digitized woodcuts.

Google eBooks launches

December 6th, 2010 by Chris Strauber

Google has finally launched the ebook service it had scheduled for earlier this year. Based on its Google Books program, the new bookstore contains about 3 million titles, most of which are out-of-copyright titles from their scanning project. Initial reports are that there are about 300,000 current titles available. There are two interesting things about this for scholarly purposes:

1) Major scholarly publishers like Oxford and Elsevier are making titles available this way.

2) The service doesn’t require you to download anything, or to have a particular device to use it. If you want to download the file you can use it on a Sony Reader or a Barnes and Noble Nook, but anything with a web browser should be able use it: computers, laptops, netbooks, simple cell phones. (I’ll report on whether it works through the Kindle’s experimental browser–it should).

Prices for scholarly titles are sort of horrifying in some cases. Ground Warfare: An International Encyclopedia lists for $236, a solid 25% off the list price of $295. Other titles, like Enrico Dandolo and the Rise of Venice, are a more modest $14.85, 50% off. As always, check with us first: we have the second and can get the first by interlibrary loan….

Update: Google ebooks are a little clunky, but entirely readable through the Kindle’s experimental web browser. It’s annoying enough that I think it would be easier to convert the files to Kindle format, but it *does* work. (12/13/2010/CS)

Archaeology and iPads

September 29th, 2010 by Chris Strauber

My alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, is using Apple’s iPad to support archaeological fieldwork, note-taking, and sketching. According to Professor Steven Ellis, “The recovery of invaluable information from our Pompeian excavations is now incalculably faster, wonderfully easier, unimaginably more dynamic, precisely more accurate, and robustly secure.”

Other universities are trying  iPad experiments in hopes of seeing what students do with them. It is a common-place of commentary on the iPad that it’s for consumption rather than creation…but perhaps it’s just a question of what kind of creation you’re doing.

via (Ancient World Bloggers Group)

JSTOR Redesign

September 7th, 2010 by Chris Strauber

FindIt at Tufts button crossed out

JSTOR has made some significant changes to how it works, in addition to adding a new coat of paint to its design. Traditionally JSTOR has not covered the current issues of the journals it includes, with anywhere from 3-5 years of current issues usually excluded. It’s also traditionally been all full-text–anything you found in JSTOR you could read immediately. Over the last year JSTOR has been doing deals with scholarly publishers to include abstracts of current issues of some of its journals, about 174 so far, of the 1200 or so we subscribe to from JSTOR. (full list of titles).

This makes JSTOR more like a service along the lines of Academic Onefile, which includes lots of full text and some abstracts. What’s tricky is that JSTOR so far doesn’t support the technology behind our FindIt@Tufts feature, which points you in the direction of subscriptions elsewhere in our collections. We subscribe to most of what they’re indexing, and if you’re on campus and follow a link that looks like this you’ll likely have no trouble reading and downloading. From off-campus you may be asked to pay for access to an article–don’t do this before you check and see whether the library catalog has the journal title and date. You can also request things we don’t have through ILLiad , our interlibrary loan service, and get a PDF copy emailed to you, usually in two days or less.

JSTOR Search Options

JSTOR search options

If you want to search JSTOR the way you have in the past, uncheck the “include links to external content” box on the search screen.

If you want to search just the current material, uncheck the “include only content I can access” box. But note that this is a few years of less than two hundred of the 40,000 or so titles we subscribe to.

Confused? Just ask if you get stuck.

Bloomsday News

June 11th, 2010 by Chris Strauber

Bloomsday (June 16th) is next week, and this year it includes a delightful kerfuffle between Apple Inc. and the creators of a graphic novel adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses, Ulysses Seen. Ulysses Seen was created as an iPad application, but also as a web site. The delight is that Apple’s policies forbid nudity in applications for sale through their App Store, so the graphic novel’s depictions of cartoon nudity have resulted in a couple of changes to the iPad version. If, like me, you don’t have an iPad, you can read the original versions online.  The first section, Telemachus, is online. The rest will be published serially, and you can subscribe for updates.

Discussion of Bloomsday in the New York Times

Discussion of the kerfuffle in Macworld UK

One interesting additional feature of the website version is a Reader’s Guide, which provides context panel by panel. The tone and treatment are conversational, more like the (excellent) James Joyce A to Z than scholarly treatments like Gifford and Seidman’s Notes for Joyce or Blamire’s New Bloomsday Book–which I note that generations of Tufts scholars have heavily annotated.

L’année philologique gets a facelift

May 18th, 2010 by Chris Strauber

Home page of l'annee philologique

Home page of l'annee philologique

L’année philologique continues to resolutely remain ten years behind where the rest of the web is, but there are some substantial changes in addition to the new paint job.

The big news: L’année will now include notices of articles and other works prior to their appearance in the print volume at the end of the year in a special tab next to search results called “Interim Records”. A few sample searches show results from as recently as last year (!). I mock, but this is actually a big change from the print edition, which has traditionally run about three years behind the current date. There is a current list of new material added, updated monthly. But there is no convenient way to get notice of this, other than to visit this page. (I’ll see if I can come up with a solution for this over the summer). One minor nuisance: interim records can be printed, emailed, or saved…but not sent directly to Refworks.

Annee Results

Interim records displayed on results pages

A few minor additions:

  • users can set up an account to keep track of searches and save results between visits (that’s 99% of what you get if you set up an account)
  • there is a modest increase in the number of forms you can export citations in (text, PDF, Refworks file, Refworks direct export)
screenshot of preferences panel

screenshot of preferences panel

Changes to the search interface

The underlying structure of the database appears not to have changed, but some of the mechanical difficulty of doing a search has been decreased.

  • Limit by language in Advanced Search (sadly this is limited to English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German–no Bulgarian or Czech). Go to “Advanced Search” and select the “Filters” menu at the bottom
Advanced search screen with location of search filters

Advanced search screen with location of search filters

Questions or concerns? Let me know.

BBC Shakespeare Online

May 12th, 2010 by Chris Strauber

Tisch recently added a streaming video collection of Shakespeare’s plays as produced by the BBC in the late 70’s and early 80’s. You can find them in the library catalog under the title of the play or as a group under BBC Shakespeare Plays.

They are available 24/7 from anywhere, although the usual rules for off-campus access apply–you need to add a URL prefix to make sure you’ll be asked to log in if you’re off campus. You can link to each of the plays act by act. So, for example, here’s Julius Caesar, Act III (et tu, Jumbo?).

What To Do

2. Get the proxy prefix:

2. Grab the URL from the bottom of the viewing window. In this case, if you take the URL from the usual place URLs live and add the proxy prefix it will work. Frequently, with other resources, this is not the case and you’ll have to look for a permanent or durable or stable URL (see below).


3. Paste step 2 onto the end of step 1 with no spaces, and copy that into your email or Blackboard:

This is the basic procedure you’d use to send a link from any of our electronic resources to a colleague or to post to your Blackboard site. Unfortunately, the directions for each of our electronic sources are slightly different. Here’s a complete list of how to get a usable URL.

What’s Going On or, Why The Extra Step?

The first part of the URL sends the request for the website through a library computer which checks to see if the person making the request is on campus. If so, it lets him/her through. If not, it asks her/him to log in. That way we can keep the publishers happy and still provide relatively easy access from anywhere with an Internet connection.

If you have questions about how to do this, or trouble linking to electronic resources generally, let me know. I am officially the guy to ask.

(Chris Strauber)