👓 Humane Ingenuity 8: Ebooks: It’s Complicated | Dan Cohen

Read Humane Ingenuity 8: Ebooks: It's Complicated by Dan CohenDan Cohen (buttondown.email)
In this issue, I want to open a conversation about a technology of our age that hasn’t quite worked out the way we all had hoped—and by we, I mean those of us who care about the composition and transmission of ideas, which I believe includes everyone on this list. Twenty years ago, literary critic Sven Birkerts reviewed the new technology of ebooks and e-readers for the short-lived internet magazine Feed. They sent him a Rocket eBook and a SoftBook, and he duly turned them on and settled into his comfy chair. What followed, however, was anything but comfy:

Image from a deck of cards by Rene Descartes

René Descartes designed a deck of playing cards that also functioned as flash cards to learn geometry and mechanics. (King of Clubs from The use of the geometrical playing-cards, as also A discourse of the mechanick powers. By Monsi. Des-Cartes. Translated from his own manuscript copy. Printed and sold by J. Moxon at the Atlas in Warwick Lane, London. Via the Beinecke Library, from which you can download the entire deck.)

My immediate thought is that this deck of cards was meant as a memory palace. I’m curious what training in rhetoric/memory methods Descartes must have had?
November 06, 2019 at 08:49PM


We are beginning a renovation of our main library at Northeastern University, Snell Library, and have been talking with architects (some of them very well-known), and I’ve found the discussions utterly invigorating. I would like to find some way to blog or newsletter about the process we will go through over the next few years, and to think aloud about the (re)design and (future) function of the library. I’m not sure if that should occur in this space or elsewhere, although the thought of launching another outlet fills me with dread. Let me know if this topic would interest you, and if I should include it here.

Dan, this is definitely interesting. Please include it here or on your main site!!!
November 06, 2019 at 08:43PM


But wait, there’s more. Much more. We generally encounter four different acquisition models (my thanks to Janet Morrow of our library for this outline): 1) outright purchase, just like a print book, easy peasy, generally costs a lot even though it’s just bits (we pay an average of over $40 per book this way), which gives us perpetual access with the least digital rights management (DRM) on the ebooks, which has an impact on sustainable access over time; 2) subscription access: you need to keep paying each year to get access, and the provider can pull titles on you at any time, plus you also get lots of DRM, but there’s a low cost per title (~$1 a book per year); 3) demand-driven/patron-driven acquisition: you don’t get the actual ebook, just a bibliographic record for your library’s online system, until someone chooses to download a book, or reads some chunk of it online, which then costs you, say ~$5; 4) evidence-based acquisitions, in which we pay a set cost for unlimited access to a set of titles for a year and then at the end of the year we can use our deposit to buy some of the titles (< $1/book/year for the set, and then ~$60/book for those we purchase).

Nice to see this laid out. I’ve never seen a general overview of how this system works for libraries.

I’ve always wondered what it cost my local public library to loan me an e-book whether I read it or not.
November 06, 2019 at 08:40PM


It is worth asking why ebooks and e-readers like the Kindle treaded water after swimming a couple of laps. I’m not sure I can fully diagnose what happened (I would love to hear your thoughts), but I think there are many elements, all of which interact as part of the book production and consumption ecosystem.

For me, and potentially for a majority of others, our memories have evolved to be highly location specific. It’s far easier for me to remember what I’ve read when I read a physical book. I can often picture what I was reading at the top, middle, or bottom of the left or right page. This fact in addition to how far I am in the book gives me a better idea of where I am with respect to a text.

These ideas are very subtle and so heavily ingrained in us that they’re not very apparent to many, if at all.

See also Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture by Lynne Kelly (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
November 06, 2019 at 08:32PM

As I’m thinking about bookclubs and Hypothes.is, I sort of wish that Ruined by Design was either online or in .pdf format so that I could use a Hypothes.is group to highlight/annotate my copy with their tool for my bookclub. I’m curious if there are any non-academic bookclubs using it in the wild?

Obviously it’s great for reading native digital content, material in the public domain, or Creative Commons content, but how could one work on participatory annotations for more restricted copyright material? Is there a Hypothes.is plugin for the Kindle, Kindle apps, or other e-readers that may work with copyright material?

👓 Introduce a new way to retain knowledge from Kindle books | Diigo

Read Introduce a new way to retain knowledge from Kindle books by Joel Liu (Diigo)
Diigo provides a 2 step method to help you make the best use of your kindle highlights. Step 1: Import your kindle highlights to your Diigo library. Step 2: Organize highlights from a book in your own knowledge structure.

Another interesting way to potentially cut out data from Amazon Kindle e-books in terms of annotations, marginalia, and notes.

A New Reading Post-type for Bookmarking and Reading Workflow

Thoughts on post types/kinds relating to reading within the Indieweb construct

This morning while breezing through my Woodwind feed reader, I ran across a post by Rick Mendes with the hashtags and which put me down a temporary rabbit hole of thought about reading-related post types on the internet.

I’m obviously a huge fan of reading and have accounts on GoodReads, Amazon, Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, and literally dozens of other services that support or assist the reading endeavor. (My affliction got so bad I started my own publishing company last year.)

READ LATER is an indication on (or relating to) a website that one wants to save the URL to come back and read the content at a future time.

I started a page on the IndieWeb wiki to define read later where I began writing some philosophical thoughts. I decided it would be better to post them on my own site instead and simply link back to them. As a member of the Indieweb my general goal over time is to preferentially quit using these web silos (many of which are listed on the referenced page) and, instead, post my reading related work and progress here on my own site. Naturally, the question becomes, how does one do this in a simple and usable manner with pretty and reasonable UX/UI for both myself and others?

Current Use

Currently I primarily use a Pocket bookmarklet to save things (mostly newspaper articles, magazine pieces, blog posts) for reading later and/or the like/favorite functionality in Twitter in combination with an IFTTT recipe to save the URL in the tweet to my Pocket account. I then regularly visit Pocket to speed read though articles. While Pocket allows downloading of (some) of one’s data in this regard, I’m exploring options to bring in the ownership of this workflow into my own site.

For more academic leaning content (read journal articles), I tend to rely on an alternate Mendeley-based workflow which also starts with an easy-to-use bookmarklet.

I’ve also experimented with bookmarking a journal article and using hypothes.is to import my highlights from that article, though that workflow has a way to go to meet my personal needs in a robust way while still allowing me to own all of my own data. The benefit is that fixing it can help more than just myself while still fitting into a larger personal workflow.

Brainstorming

A Broader Reading (Parent) Post-type

Philosophically a read later post-type could be considered similar to a (possibly) unshared or private bookmark with potential possible additional meta-data like: progress, date read, notes, and annotations to be added after the fact, which then technically makes it a read post type.

A potential workflow viewed over time might be: read later >> bookmark >> notes/annotations/marginalia >> read >> review. This kind of continuum of workflow might be able to support a slightly more complex overall UI for a more simplified reading post-type in which these others are all sub-types. One could then make a single UI for a reading post type with fields and details for all of the sub-cases. Being updatable, the single post could carry all the details of one’s progress.

Indieweb encourages simplicity (DRY) and having the fewest post-types possible, which I generally agree with, but perhaps there’s a better way of thinking of these several types. Concatenating them into one reading type with various data fields (and the ability of them to be public/private) could allow all of the subcategories to be included or not on one larger and more comprehensive post-type.

Examples
  1. Not including one subsection (or making it private), would simply prevent it from showing, thus one could have a traditional bookmark post by leaving off the read later, read, and review sub-types and/or data.
  2. As another example, I could include the data for read later, bookmark, and read, but leave off data about what I highlighted and/or sub-sections of notes I prefer to remain private.

A Primary Post with Webmention Updates

Alternately, one could create a primary post (potentially a bookmark) for the thing one is reading, and then use further additional posts with webmentions on each (to the original) thereby adding details to the original post about the ongoing progress. In some sense, this isn’t too far from the functionality provided by GoodReads with individual updates on progress with brief notes and their page that lists the overall view of progress. Each individual post could be made public/private to allow different viewerships, though private webmentions may be a hairier issue. I know some are also experimenting with pushing updates to posts via micropub and other methods, which could be appealing as well.

This may be cumbersome over time, but could potentially be made to look something like the GoodReads UI below, which seems very intuitive. (Note that it’s missing any review text as I’m currently writing it, and it’s not public yet.)

Overview of reading progress
Overview of reading progress

Other Thoughts

Ideally, better distinguishing between something that has been bookmarked and read/unread with dates for both the bookmarking and reading, as well as potentially adding notes and highlights relating to the article is desired. Something potentially akin to Devon Zuegel‘s “Notes” tab (built on a custom script for Evernote and Tumblr) seems somewhat promising in a cross between a simple reading list (or linkblog) and a commonplace book for academic work, but doesn’t necessarily leave room for longer book reviews.

I’ll also need to consider the publishing workflow, in some sense as it relates to the reverse chronological posting of updates on typical blogs. Perhaps a hybrid approach of the two methods mentioned would work best?

Potentially having an interface that bolts together the interface of GoodReads (picture above) and Amazon’s notes/highlights together would be excellent. I recently noticed (and updated an old post) that they’re already beta testing such a beast.

Kindle Notes and Highlights are now shoing up as a beta feature in GoodReads
Kindle Notes and Highlights are now shoing up as a beta feature in GoodReads

Comments

I’ll keep thinking about the architecture for what I’d ultimately like to have, but I’m always open to hearing what other (heavy) readers have to say about the subject and the usability of such a UI.

Please feel free to comment below, or write something on your own site (which includes the URL of this post) and submit your URL in the field provided below to create a webmention in which your post will appear as a comment.

Reply to Feed Your Research

Replied to Feed Your Research by Ellen Keith (The Sheridan Libraries Blog)

All props to the graduate student in Sociology who alerted me to this wonderful time saver. I knew that researchers could set up RSS feeds and e-mail alerts for tables of contents, but I wasn’t practicing what I preached. I’ve got my e-mail alerts set up for tables of contents of favorite library science journals (an oxymoron, I know), but truth be told, those were starting to feel a little old school. I’ve got RSS feeds set up in Google Reader for all my favorite library blogs (NOT an oxymoron). But, although we promote this, I hadn’t set up any RSS feeds from our databases. When a student in the Soc department asked me a question about his RSS feed, I finally set one up myself to see what he was seeing.

You can do this in almost any database but my example above is from two databases we get via ProQuest: Sociological Abstracts and International Bibliography of the Social Sciences. These databases can be searched simultaneously and an RSS feed set up for their combined results. New citations that match my search show up in my feed reader, and as a bonus, the feed results import Find It links so if the articles are in full-text, I’ve got immediate access to them. Best of all, my time is saved by setting up this feed. I’m not constantly checking these databases for new articles on my topic. Instead, they’re delivered to me!

To take it a step further is there an easy way to integrate it into other social tools like Instapaper, ReadItLater, et al or to have the full journal article results emailed to my Kindle’s address so that the papers all show up for instant reading on my Kindle, tablet, e-reader?!

Thanks for the tip Ellen!