Tons of new free e-books hit the web.

Yes the title of this post is a bit to much like click bait for my tastes but none the less it is true.  A article from Vice recently highlighted the work being done by the New York Public Library to provide access to Millions of books thanks to a quirk of copyright law.  feel free to read the article for more info.  What this means for us is we have access to a lot more free e-books via the NYPL and Hathi Trust.

As if Millions of e-books being added online for easy access via NYPL wasn’t enough a recent bit of news highlighted on Bookriot shows that the Vatican libraries digitization project is moving along brilliantly.  All their hard work is freely available over at Digivatlib, and yes it stands for the Digital Vatican Library.

It always makes me happy when I can help people find the information they are looking for easily and for free (free usually makes them happy too).  So a hearty thank you and congratulations to all the folks out there who have worked so hard to share these resources with the world.

P.S.  My free stuff page does now included all the free e-book resources mentioned here, and many more.

Staffless Bookstores & Open Research Libraries

The future of books has been changing for a while now, and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon.  Audio-books, e-books, play-a-ways, read a longs, to say the format of the story is changing is an understatement.  Now it appears that in China the techniques of selling books is also changing.  According to an article by Stéphanie Michaux over at the Bookseller more than 20 staffless bookstores have opened in China.  These stores even have robots to offer suggestions to readers.  Apparently more and more Chinese citizens are taking to ordering the books online via WeChat so naturally someone decided to carry this style experience into the real world.

I find this both fascinating and terrifying.  If readers are relying on online store reviews and retailers to help inform their reading choices then the entire system is going to make a drastic shift into the realm of being popularity contest driven instead of balanced and (usually) well informed professional reviewer driven.  This could, to steal a term from online searching, shadow block lesser known and new authors from having their books seen let alone purchased.  I can only hope that there are some people out there willing to put some humans behind some of those automated robot answers instead of solely relying on search algorithms.

Speaking of putting some humans behind some technologically created problems the folks over at Knowledge Unlatched recently (May 2019) released a beta version for a, for lack of a better term, open content aggregator search site.  They call it Open Research Library  (yes there is also a link on my free stuff page) and it is in my opinion amazingly useful.  Their is a great article on this over at No Shelf Required that explains the whole project way better than I can so feel free to go read it for more details.  For my two cents on the topic I would love to see as many open access information libraries and websites  link into this project as possible…it would considerably shorten my free stuff page.

Would love to hear your thoughts on where books, publishing, and book selling are heading.  Maybe together we can work out a path for providing a great user experience for all this.

 

 

Image is everything…when searching.

Ever have a picture and you just can’t remember where you got it, or who’s (or what’s) in it?  Well the internet can actually search more than just words. I know you’re saying I know I look for videos, music, and pictures all the time…but I am willing to bet you use words to do that.  Here are a few helpful tips on how to search using pictures instead.

The great and powerful Google has a built in search by “Images” (image is the magic word to remember) feature even if it is kind of small and out of the way on the Google search screen.

where to find Google image search pointer

Once you’ve clicked on the “Images” link in Google you will get a slightly different search box.  This one will contain a tiny little camera just before the microphone.

where to find the Google search by image icon - step two

Clicking on the little camera will give you the option to paste in the URL (aka: web address) for a picture you found online that you want to look up more info on, or find similar pictures.  You can also upload a picture from your computer (or the device of your choice) and search using that.

You’ll get a Google worthy “Best Guess” at picture identification, and a link to search for visually similar Images.  So this is cool bit of web search magic that can come in handy.

There is also a site called TinEye that has a very handy How To page right below the search box.  Tin eye allows you to search using a picture and see what websites may be using it online.  This is very helpful for artists keeping track of their digital work, and finding those who may be copying it without permission.

Tin Eye Homepage picture

On a related note for those wanting to know which pictures shown in search results can be used freely (without violating copyright laws) Google has a feature for that on their standard search results page.

Google image search tools for filtering by usage rights.

After you have done your keyword search knowing you wanted pictures, and have hit the “Images” (yes still the magic word) link option, just below the search bar on the right will be a “Tools” button (#1 in above image), this will bring up a ton of options to filter the search results by.  We are focusing on “Usage Rights” for this post so you can click on that option (#2 in above image).  Once you do this you will see a bunch of different options you can choose from.  The default “Not Filtered by License” is not a safe to use option.  I tend to choose either “Labeled for reuse” or “Labeled for reuse with modification”, (#3 in the above image), and yes both of those mean what they say…you can reuse…or modify (aka: edit) and reuse the pictures freely.

There are a lot of image search options online the above are just some of the more useful ones I have found (or read about).  Feel free to comment with your favorites.

Library Tools and Game Accessibility

Librarians are always looking for more resources to make their job easier, or update their skills.  The Library Toolshed is a very useful resources for just such endeavors.  Created and hosted by our friendly neighboring Canadian librarians the library toolshed has tons of useful presentations, programs, and training resources for librarians to discover.  All of the resources you find in the toolshed are also created under the Creative Commons licence so feel free to do what you like with them.  I’d love to see an American / Canadian (possibly global) team up for this site eventually so we can all add to the tools in the shed.

On a only partial side note… video games and libraries are becoming more and more commonly linked together.  With library game nights, nights of code … making video games… and all sorts of other library events I think it’s time we paid a little attention to a problem most gamers don’t think about much, but we as librarians should.  Video game accessibility is a major issue for anyone with physical or mental disabilities, and thankfully our friends over at the Library of Congress’s National Library Service dept. have made a amazing list of resources to assist us all in enjoying some game time.

The NLS Reference Guide for Video Game Accessibility
“Playing video games can boost creativity, improve problem-solving skills, and cultivate teamwork. People with disabilities, however, have limited opportunities to enjoy video games. People with visual disabilities may not be able to participate in highly graphic games; people with mobility disabilities may not be able to use a standard game controller.

Still, many resources are available for gamers with disabilities. Individuals and organizations have taken up the challenge of adapting or modifying controllers for people with disabilities. Computer programmers have developed audio games (or audio adaptations of games) that can be played by people who are blind or visually impaired. In addition, there are video game experts who publish accessibility reviews of new games.” (quote from site)

Hopefully now all you librarians out there will have some great tools to assist you in your work.  Possibly even making a video game night for the disabled…I think I should go talk to someone about that idea now myself.

 

Expanding Educational Opportunities & Browser Functionality.

This is a two part post because some times you discover too many good things in one day and you just have to share it all at once.

First: From the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Public Libraries are Reinventing Access to Higher Education.

Public libraries have always been big on giving everyone equal access to educational materials (it’s one of our main reasons for being), and now the Brooklyn Public Library & and Bard College are taking things one large step forward.  Bard & Brooklyn are working on providing accredited college courses to disadvantaged peoples through services offered at the public library and managed by the college.  This (in my opinion) is an astounding first step to giving everyone equal access to higher education.

Imagine if every public library in the country offered free college credit classes, or testing (via services like CLEP) to the general public.  This would make another route  for anyone to earn a college degree, aside from traditional colleges and their associated ever growing costs, thus improving their chances of finding a great job.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve helped people try to continue their education because they are stuck in a job with no advancement options all because they don’t have a college degree which would allow for promotion.  Even when these individuals have more than enough years experience doing everything the job they are applying for requires…no degree…no job is all they hear.  It finally looks like some forward thinking folks at Brooklyn Public Library& Bard College found the right door to open for these people, and I can only hope it catches on everywhere.

Second: Google Chrome Browser has a Library Extension…who knew, and why am I only finding out now!

Turns out some fine bookrioters knew and shared their discovery with their online readers.  Here’s what the Library Extension does in Chrome: Say your looking for a book on amazon, but your running a bit short on cash, the library extension rescues you by showing you if your local library has a copy running around for checkout.  The extension works with more than just amazon too.

“Currently Supported Sites:
* Amazon (amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca, amazon.de)
* AR BookFinder (arbookfind.com)
* Barnes and Noble (barnesandnoble.com)
* BookDepository (bookdepository.com)
* Chapters/Indigo (chapters.indigo.ca)
* Good Reads (goodreads.com)
* Google Books (books.google.com, books.google.co.uk)
* LibraryThing (librarything.com)” (quote from extension download info)

So anywhere you might go looking to find your next read is now linked to your local public library (or libraries if you use more than one).  A nice handy feature for avid readers and library users.  You can even set the extension to search for books, e-books, or both…which is handy for those of us who care more about stories than format.

Now go find your next great read and enjoy.

 

Copyright Office For Free Video Games??

An online news article posted on Digital Trends recently got my attention.  Apparently the U.S. Copyright office is considering adding a new exemption to U.S. copyright law.  Exemptions are where we librarians live so needless to say we try to pay attention to new additions; because maybe we can offer new services or products to our patrons.  This new consideration got my attention for another reason too because it’s all about abandoned MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games.

In other words all those virtual games where whole countries of people spent countless hours living out their fantastical adventures.  I personally always wondered what happened to all those virtual worlds (or universes) when the companies decided to no longer support their games. As it turns out not much does.  They just sort of suffer digital stasis as their servers are unplugged and stored away, or possibly even (horror of horrors) get deleted—Digital Apocalypse.  Now we find out that maybe, just maybe, we can start walking those worlds again for free.

If the copyright office adds abandoned video games…video games no longer supported by their creators…to their list of exemptions that would mean that anyone anywhere could play them online for free (or possibly a small donation to their virtual server maintenance fund).  For most folks this will only add to their recreational time online playing retro video games.  To libraries it means a whole new world, or worlds, of possibilities.  From free video games nights for all ages to history of video game classes with playable examples.

As a librarian I am hoping that the copyright office adds these exemptions to their lists, and that the companies that own the games are willing to comply (as they are no longer making profit on unused games).  As a gamer I am looking forward to cruising around my favorite virtual worlds again, and I’m sure my virtual neighbors in Star Wars Galaxies (one such abandoned game) will be happy to see me again.

47

…or maybe not.

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*fingers crossed*

Please Help Uphold Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is under consideration for repeal by the current head of the FCC.  If you don’t know what Net Neutrality is; it is the rule from the FCC that keeps internet providers playing fair and not charging for specific services / or via area / or for specific content…and a lot more.  Without net neutrality internet service providers can at a whim say they are no longer going to supply access to a certain site, or they can decide to charge money to access certain sites.  In other words corporate censorship can occur without this regulation in place. It may not, but I for one don’t want to take the chance.

So please contact your congressmen / congresswomen and urge them to uphold Net Neutrality thus ensuring equal access to the internet for all.

The American Library Association has a wonderful site set up for librarians, or library supporters, to do this (feel free to change the pre-made message if you want) here.

Thank you.

Free 3D Modeling Resources

With many libraries jumping on the 3D Printer bandwagon I decided to add some free 3D modeling resources to my Free Stuff page.  From software to make your own models to free model downloads available online I tried to cover all the bases.  Something to keep in mind is that not all 3D models are 3D printer compatible so before your start creating check what file formats your (or the libraries) 3D printer accepts.  If you already have some models you’d like to print Blender is a pretty handy software to have even if you only use it for file conversions (which it’s great at).  So go create something and share your artistic talents with the world.

FCC and the speed of “Broadband”

As a resident of a “Rural American” state (Maine) I was spurred into action recently when I read an article from Wired magazine, recently posted on twitter by a fellow librarian Jessamyn West, about the FCC considering reclassifying what internet speed actually constituted broadband. This article highlights a discussion currently going on at the FCC that would change broadband from a minimum of 25 mbps (Megabits Per Second) to 10 mbps.

Since I not to long ago completed a dual masters degree program completely online, I know how much of a bandwidth hog I was (and probably still am when playing video games), and how much a difference that 15 mbps makes to my speed and productivity.

Below is the comment I sent in to the FCC in regards to this, for lack of better words, corporate attempt to not provide equal service to rural areas.

“As a librarian and resident of “Rural America” I can assure you that lowering the speed of broadband will not fix the connectivity problem this country faces, and will more than likely make it much worse in the long run.  This idea is like putting a smaller gas tank in a car to lower exhaust emissions even though the driver still needs to go the same distance to work.

Many Americans…27%*… don’t even have broadband internet at home yet. (*see Pew research at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/02/09/digital-divides-feeding-america/ ), and here we are telling them that slower speeds and smaller data capacities are fine.  While in truth digitization is increasing every day. More and more bandwidth is required for modern technologies and this does not even take into consideration what the future holds.  20 years ago, we were overtaxing the phone system with 54k modems now 54k bandwidth will not even load a single modern webpage.  Please stop and think what bandwidth will be required in the next 20 years.  Feel free to read “The Second Machine Age”, by Erik Brynjolfsson, and Andrew McAfee for a good look at what is coming in our future.

As a librarian, I can assure you that we are working hard every day to fill in the digital divide by providing access and education to those 27% of Americans that do not have access anywhere else.  The needs these people face are real and growing as more and more essential services are shifted onto online only access methods.  These citizens of “Rural America” are still American citizens and many will one day have no choice but to get home based internet just to survive daily life.  So, I ask again please stop and consider how this reduction in bandwidth will affect their and all our futures.

Thank you.”

I can only hope they listen to me and the over 1000 other folks who’ve commented on this issue.

Free Educational Resources

I’ve added a Educational Resources section to my free stuff page.  Colleges, universities, MOOC’s (massive open online course), online academies, and more.  Some of the sites I listed have both free and pay sections so be sure to choose the free options.  Of course if you want the pay content that’s always a decision you can make too.  Education is something no one can ever take from you and is always useful so there is no such thing as “over-educated”.  It’s a bit cliche now but I’m going to type it any way….It’s never to late to learn.   Enjoy the free learning resources and have fun!