Libraries can own the Kindle, but who owns the books?

Mathew Ingram at Gigaom reports on one of the catches in Amazon’s plan to allow libraries to lend e-books on the Kindle: Who owns the books? Since preserving our heritage is one of the key value of our libraries but not of Amazon, there are troubling consequences of turning libraries into distribution sites for corporate content.

I have heard a well-known Internet librarian (I’m keeping her/his name confidential because I didn’t ask if I’m allowed to repeat and attribute this idea, although I’m 99% certain this person wouldn’t mind) suggest that the way forward is for libraries to push to be allowed to buy e-books. But apparently buying and owning stuff is a crazy idea in the Age of the LicenseWeb.

How-to guide for going Open Access

The Association for Learning Technology has published a detailed and highly practical guide, based on its own experience, for journals moving toward an Open Access model. Indeed, the guide is of even broader utility than that, since it considers the practicalities of moving from an existing contract with publishers for any reason.

ALT’s journal has been renamed Research in Learning Technology, and it will be fully Open Access as of January 2012. (Thanks to Seb Schmoller for the tip.)

OCLC’s world library stats

OCLC has posted a page that lets you drill down by geographic area to see stats about libraries. For example, Massachusetts has 3,181 librarians (1,440 of which are in academic libraries) and 81,877,061 volumes in libraries. (Hat tip to Infodocket.)

Summer of Code? Funnest summer ever!

[Update (March 19)]: Google turned down the Berkman Center application, which included our projects :( ]

We’ve put in for a couple of Summer of Code projects, in conjunction with the Berkman Center:

1. Syllabus parser. Design, structure and populate an open repository of the information in college syllabi.

  • Assuming we get permission, figure out how to retrieve syllabi from Google. (If we don’t get permission, we have a starter set of 500,000+ syllabi.)
  • Figure out how to parse the multiple and free-form formats syllabi are found in.
  • Design an appropriate and open data model for the information in syllabi.
  • Build a Web site with that provides useful end-user and API access to the syllabus data.

2. Scholarly semantic web builder. The aim is to crawl the Google Books corpus looking for useful relationships among scholarly works. Such relationships only begin with citations/footnotes. What other semantic cues can be unearthed to see how scholarly books relate?

  • Research the sorts of relations between books that would be of high value to scholars and researchers, in addition to footnotes.
  • Crawl the Google Books corpus to discover these relations [if Google grants permission].
  • Make these relations accessible in an open way, especially in conjunction with the ShelfLife app that provides community-based wayfaring through Harvard Library’s holdings for scholars and researchers.
  • Create interesting and understandable analytics based on the discovered relationships.

We’re now waiting to see if the proposals get accepted.

The rest of the Berkman proposals — many fun ones — are here.

Imperial College takes on Elsevier and Wiley Blackwell

Felix Online, the online news of Imperial College in the UK, reports (in an article by Kadhim Shubber) that Deborah Shorley, Director of the Imperial College London Library, is threatening to end the library’s subscriptions to journals published by Elsevier and Wiley Blackwell, two of the major publishers in the UK. Upset with 6% increases in annual subscription fees (well above inflation, and in the face of a growth in profits at Elsevier from £1B to £1.6B from 2005 to 2009), she is demanding a 15% reduction in fees, as well as other concessions.

Says the article: “…if an agreement or an alternative delivery plan is not in place by January 2nd next year, researchers at Imperial and elsewhere will lose access to thousands of journals. But Deborah Shorley is determined to take it to the edge if necessary: ‘I will not blink.'”

As the article mentions, in 2010, after a 300-400% fee increase, the University of California threatened to boycott the Nature Publishing Group, including not engaging in peer review for NPG’s journals. (NPG claims that the rise in fees was due to the reduction of a discount from 88% to 50%. UC disputes this.) In August of 2010, NPG and UC came to announced “an agreement to work together to address the current licensing challenges as well as the larger issues of sustainability in the scholarly communication process.” [more and more]