Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The inevitable result of Patron Drive Acquisition

After about two and a half years of circulating e-readers with letting patrons each purchase a singles book to add to the collection, this finally happened:

I'm honestly surprised it took this long for someone to add porn/erotica to the device.  We knew it was only a matter of time before it happened.  Perhaps the best part of this was the message from Administration querying the legitimacy of the purchase, stating first that it was not purchased by anyone there, and ending with "Perhaps I shouldn't judge a book by its cover!"  At the very least I found amusement in this.

I'm pretty sure that in this case, it is ok to judge this book by its cover (or at least by its title).

In case you are wondering, we are leaving this on the device.  The borrowing contract states that we are not responsible for the content on the device, and we only lend to patrons who are over 18.  Libraries do circulate sexually explicit and/or erotic material, regardless if they have collections of erotica on the shelves.  In all likelihood Shortbus is just as graphic and that lives with the rest of our general DVD collection.

Link Smorgasbord, April 22-28

German Court Nixes Selling Used E-books 
Obviously this is in Germany, not the US, but due to various reciprocity treaties it is worth keeping an eye on what other countries are doing concerning copyright.  The title of this article is also slightly misleading, as it does not ban all ebook sales no matter what, it does still allow resale with rights-holder consent.  On a global scale, companies like ReDigi are exploring the reselling of MP3's and Amazon and Apple are both making initial steps to support the resale of ebooks.  While digital sales often have country based restrictions, the push and pull of demand still exists for services available to others.

Are libraries offering enough self-published ebooks?
I cannot begin to tell you how annoyed this article makes me.  It does acknowledge that efforts exist to include self-published ebooks, but overall comes across as if we just aren't trying.  Self-published books present both an amazing opportunity and a huge challenge to libraries.  We do add self-published books to our ebook collections, especially local authors, if they are available for our ebook platform.  Smashwords ebooks are generally far more affordable to us than ebooks from the Big Six.  On the other hand, the pool of support that exists for books available from more traditional publishers (including connecting authors with editors and reviewers) does not exist to the same extent for self-published authors.  This makes curation and discovery of self-published ebooks a challenge for libraries.

Holyoke to promote child literacy by creating 'mini-libraries' at police substations, stocking cruisers with books
I love this.  I personally it is important for both the police force and the community for personal involvement and interaction.  It makes both sides of the equation more human in the minds of the other.

House Judiciary Chairman plans comprehensive review of US copyright law (The Verge)
This could be awesome, or horrible, or really just get us nowhere.  Copyright law is this huge convoluted behemoth that in this day and age doesn't really fill its initial purpose, which was to foster, encourage, and protect creativity of the individual.  Changes in technology have brought us into areas that copyright law never had in mind, and that amendments to have never really done a decent job addressing.  See also Will Copyright Reform be SOPA in disguise? (LibrarianShipwreck).

Hollywood Studios Fuming Over Indie Studio Deal With BitTorrent
I like having additional evidence in hand about non-piracy uses for BitTorrent, of which there are many.  We are dealing with a disruptive technology that has the potential to be competence enhancing, or studios can cast it aside as evil and spend money and time trying to tear it down.  Considering we're easily 15 years or more into easily navigated Peer-to-Peer sharing, tearing it down seems less than effective.

MPAA Executive Tampers with Evidence in Piracy Case

Friday, April 26, 2013

2 Strikes to CISPA

So for the second time around CISPA has passed in the House, received a veto threat from our President, and utterly failed to go anywhere in the Senate.  I am of mixed thoughts about how the Senate handled the issue, I would have loved to see it soundly voted out, but I also know that had it come to a vote it may have passed.  Last year we saw several large legislative pushes against online privacy, and for each one I saw floods of reaction and awareness raising across my social networking feeds.

This year, not so much.

The website blackout protest barely registered to many users, and the active individual commentators seem missing.  Of course the usual alert messages from various civil liberties groups appeared in my inbox, but the overwhelming wave of internet user protest just never built up.  Even the news coverage was less robust this year.

I have no doubt that CISPA (or other very similar piece of legislation) will be introduced again in the near future.  Vote tallies show a slight increase in the number of votes "Yes" in the House of Representatives.  The tug and pull of privacy control has been all over the place.  I operate under the assumption that nothing I post on the web is truly private, but that doesn't mean I want fewer barriers in data farming.  This manifests itself in several ways, including my choices in web browsers and my withdrawal from Goodreads after the purchase by Amazon.

Next time around, how much attention will CISPA (or the offspring of CISPA) receive?  How much attention will we give it?

Additional Reading:
What is CISPA, and why should you care? (PC Mag)
'Dead for now:' CISPA halted in the Senate (RT.com)
CISPA, SOPA, and the Next Acronym (LibrarianShipwreck)
ACLU: CISPA Is Dead (For Now) (U.S. News & World Report)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I spy with my little eye... someone taking a test

There's a great post up at LibrarianShipwreck on the direction test proctoring has started to take alongside the growing interest in online education options, in particular with MOOC's (Massive Open Online Course) pursuing recognizable credit with college programs.  This caught my eye at first because as a Reference librarian I often receive requests by students to serve as a proctor, and patrons additional use our public computers for online classes or various assessments.
"Much of the irony of the idea of such Orwellian proctors is that it seems to run counter to some of the utopian visions attached to online courses. The evangels for online education frequently speak of how wonderfully freeing it can be: allowing students to work at their own pace, allowing students to take classes from all over the world, providing assistance to students who would be less comfortable in a traditional classroom environment. What such proctoring does is take the “freedom” granted by online education and buries it beneath a comically intrusive system in the name of guarding against cheating."
The post is in response to Behind the Webcam's Watchful Eye, Online Proctoring Takes Hold (Steve Kolowich, 15 April 2013, The Chronicle of Higher Education) which looks at the companies that proctor online tests.

After reading both the blog post and the original article I am SO GLAD that I have never tried to take any online/remote learning course requiring online proctoring.  Actually, it reminds me a bit of when I worked as a cashier in a gas station.  Periodically corporate management would review a full 8 hour shift, and at one point the shift belonged to yours truly.  This was actually a compliment on the part of my manager, he thought I would be the best example to represent the store.

Things I got written up for included:
  • Taking food out of the walk-in and eating it without paying.  This was my dinner I brought from home and was not even a product available in store.
  • Taking newspapers out of the store with out paying at the end of the night.  These were the left over papers that I was bringing to the recycling bin after appropriately processing them.
  • Taking donuts out of the building with out paying.  Now this one I will admit was a bit of a fuzzier area.  Generally ANY waste food (hot dogs from the grill, snacks past their sell by date) had to be counted, recorded, bagged and put into a box in the walk-in so that the store manager could VERIFY that we in fact threw out the amount of food recorded.  We had an in-store exception for the donuts which were delivered fresh every morning from a local donut shop and they were really phenomenal.  As long as we recorded the amount left at the end of the day and bagged them during normal closing clean up.
I had nothing to hide at all about my shift and that did not stop a formal write up against me.  Fortunately I did not receive reprimand for "giving away newspapers" (The Valley Advocate, a free publication), something previously included on past reviews.

I cannot image taking an online test with every move scrutinized. Even in a situation where I went out of my way to minimize interruptions I can think of a plethora of behaviors that could mark me as "potentially cheating" ranging from dealing with the cat attacking my hand on the computer mouse possibly even to my tendency to work various types of problems or make notes to guide my answer long hand on scrap paper.  I use a dual monitor set up which means I almost never have my focus on just one screen.  My significant other may yell a question to me from across the apartment (if he's not playing video games on his computer in the same room).  I could have to answer the front door.  The list goes on.  Short story: regular life is filled with distractions that these companies reportedly make note of.
"What we look for is eye movement," says Ms. Schnorr. "When the eyes start veering off to the side, that's clearly a red flag."

Kryterion notes "aberrant behavior"—a test-taker leaves his seat, or answers the phone, or some similar breach—in about 16 percent of the exams it monitors, said Mr. Dorman. This does not always mean the students are cheating, but it does mean the university will be notified.
On a personal note, while different companies attempt to stymie cheating in different ways, I would drop a class rather than take a test that involved installing software that allowed the proctors some amount of control over my computer.  I find it too high of a risk for breech of trust.  I also find one of the great benefits of at home learning is staying comfy... my home lounging clothing choices would need modification for the scruitny of a webcam.

So this is taking a test at home.  Things are distracting but you get through it.  Now what about people who use public facilities like libraries for their online courses and test taking.  The lucky who have their own laptops likely have a built in webcam and have control over installing software.  Those using the public computers may be out of luck and not even able to install the required software to take the test.

The really awesome thing about MOOCs is that they offer opportunities not otherwise attainable due to finances, resources, etc.  My own obsessions with privacy aside, I feel invasive observation is out of sync with the ideals of open learning.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, April 15 - 21

And ACLU's CISPA Explainer
Last year several similar efforts were ultimately defeated, but unsurprisingly, people keep bringing them back and trying to get various internet privacies stripped away.

State of America's Libraries Report 2013
A report on different areas of libraries and how everything measures up.  This includes copyright, technology, funding/staffing, resources, transformation, and banned books.  For the curious, the top 10 challenged books in 2012 were:
  1. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
  5. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson
  6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  7. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  8. Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
  9. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  10. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Simon & Schuster seems to reluctantly joining the library ebook party with a one year trial.  On the upside their entire ebook catalog is included.  On the downside the purchase is only for one year.

Windows 8.1 May Restore Boot-To-Desktop, Start Button
I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty damn fond of Windows 7.  I am some what sad they moved on so quickly from a solid operating system to something that largely feels unfinished and incomplete (and utterly will not work in my workplace).  That being said, boot-to-desktop and the start button are two small but significant features that it was mind boggling to me that they removed.

Apple Didn’t Censor Comic After All
After the hoopla about Saga #12, it turns out that blame was mis-attributed to Apple.  It was blocked by ComiXology on the assumption that it was not permitted by Apple policy.  On the flip side, I am curious if this ends up being one of the biggest selling issues of Saga because of the attention drawn by it being temporarily censored.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

So then that happened

I found my review of Fifty Shades of Brains featured in the "Weekly Interesting Reads" newsletter from BookLikes.

[Book Review] Brewing Made Easy : A Step-By-Step Guide to Making Beer at Home

Brewing made easy : a step-by-step guide to making beer at home / Dennis and Joe Fisher (Microcosm Publishing, Powell's Books)
Brew your first batch today!

It's fun, the beer tastes great, and with the easy-to-follow instructions, it's as simple as picking up an equipment kit and a bag of brewing ingredients and opening to the first chapter. Homebrewing brothers Joe and Dennis Fisher guide you through every step of making your first and second batches, and then they set you free to explore and create. Work your way through the 25 recipes the Fishers provide, or use the charts and tables in chapter 3 to design your own formulations.
This is the "how to brew" book that I wish came with my brew kit.  I am grateful to this book for dispelling a few misunderstandings I had gathered from my initial reading of other materials, and for generally explaining brewing in an easy to understand, direct manner.  This book will guide you through a first batch, offers a range of recipes for further brewing, and even offers guidance for creating your own recipes and blends.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Try Everything"

Recently, Neil Gaiman gave a keynote speech at the London Book Fair (video, imbedding seems to be turned off).  It is a beautiful speech, filled with wit and masterful storytelling.  In particular, he talks about publishing and creating in the face of disruptive technologies.  And ultimately, adapting and moving forwards with (or ahead of) disruptive technology is key. 

This is a beautiful and very relevant statement.  We can't always tell which ideas will disrupt our lives and which will fizzle out unnoticed.  Think of all the services/technologies that we use daily that didn't exist 5 or 10 years ago.  At one point the concept of an online only bookstore was considered a folly.  Library services for children largely started as an experiment just over a hundred years ago at the New York Public Library (Lepore, Jill. "The Lion and the Mouse." The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 21 July 2008).  Now libraries without a children's department exist as the rare exception and teen services are popping up like dandelions. Libraries are developing their own ebook lending platforms, exploring their place in the self-publishing ecosystem, offer anything from cook ware to musical instruments, and host events on a wide range of topics including butchery.

Jumping into the unknown is often difficult and frightening.  Not to mention potentially costly and incredibly disruptive.  Maybe that's a bright side of dependence on grants, public funding, and public interest.  Librarians constantly look at ways to reinvent themselves with the resources available to better attract public interest, and displays of innovation are often needed to win grant funding.

If you were paying attention you may have noticed that I mentioned that libraries are exploring their place in the world of self-publishing.  There are gaps in the large industry publishing model that large quantities of creative content simply pass by.  As it turns out, some libraries have started to step into that gap to not only help authors publish, but perhaps even give them the tools for a polished book.  Networking authors to editors, reviewers, and tools for writing.  If our ebook platform allows we add copies to our ebook collections.  There are some really interesting ways libraries could expand into this space.

This is not to say that publishers aren't exploring options. I came across Publishing Hackathon which greatly intrigues me, and I will be looking for the resultant presentations while at BEA this year:
"Book discovery needs innovation. It’s never been easier to get a book into a reader’s hands—just one click. But, with over 10,000 books published each year on every topic imaginable, how do people find out about them? There are fewer bookstores to help readers discover exciting new authors and ideas. There’s currently no digital experience that replicates the serendipity of browsing bookshelves. Recommendation engines are fairly primitive – they know what you bought, but they don’t know why. It’s a disruptive opportunity that hasn’t been explored."
In the mean time, in Gaiman's words "Try everything.  Make mistakes.  Surprise ourselves.  Try anything else.  Fail.  Fail better.  And succeed in ways we never would have imagined a year or a week ago."  See what place these have in your life and explore.

Additional Links
London Book Fair 2013: In Keynote, Gaiman Says 'Try Everything'
Neil Gaiman urges publishers to 'make mistakes' in uncertain new era

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

GED Worries

At my library GED classes and testing are kind of a big thing.  A community education group has taught and facilitated GED testing for some years in partnership with my library.  We serve a population of around 30,000 people, and every Spring and Fall we host maxed out GED and pre-GED programs, with very few of the participants taking the test as a capstone to homeschooling. 

Starting January 1, 2014 the cost to take the test greatly increases, partially due to privatization of the test.  Before now our semester long GED and pre-GED classes for $35 including the test thanks to various funding for the community education group that runs the sessions.  Generally the GED test costs $60.  The new GED courses will include computer literacy, something I support, but will also cost upwards of $120, require the use of proprietary software and/or web portal access, and most likely require testing centers.

The new test not only will be out of reach for a large number of patrons who are currently working towards their certification, but also greatly reduces our ability to support these patrons.  We have a number of public computers for free use, but we only have so many and they get quite heavy throughout the whole day.  Supposedly the new tests are cheaper to administer and grade, yet are tied to a significantly increased price.

One hope for adult education and literacy programs like the one here is that states are pushing back for affordable and accessible testing options.
Last month, New York, Montana and New Hampshire announced they were switching to a new high school equivalency exam, and California officials began looking into amending regulations to drop the requirement that the state only use the GED test. Missouri has requested bids from test makers and plans to make a decision this month. Several others states, including Massachusetts, Maine, Indiana and Iowa, are making plans to request information about alternative exams.
Unfortunately "making plans to request information" means we will go live with the new test next year.  In the mean time we are in a holding pattern until we learn the details of what we will need to (or can) provide.  I currently see very few ways that the changes will not limit the size of the class, due to student finances and due to our limited number of public computers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

NF Display April 2013

Like any month, I wanted the April display to be fun.  Then a few months ago I found Encyclopedia Paranoiaca : the indispensable guide to everyone and everything you should be afraid or worried about / Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf.  That pretty much sold me for a display concept.  Only one problem, there's only so many silly yet serious dangers of the world books out there.  So I went a bit broader, and have started generally describing the display as "crazy books."  The label is applied differently across the various titles, and I've included books on conspiracy theories, secret societies, superstitions, oddities, and books generally on how humans are speeding towards their own species demise.

I did actively avoid books focusing on bigfoot/aliens/ghosts/etc beyond the obvious inclusion of a book on Area 51.  Those have a place in an October display some point down the line.

One advantage I have noticed about such a small display is that it becomes immediately obvious (to me at least) when someone takes a book.  About half of my original title seed list was checked out when I set up the display.  Titles on display keep going out as well.
  • Encyclopedia paranoiaca : the indispensable guide to everyone and everything you should be afraid of or worried about / Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf 
  • A culture of conspiracy : apocalyptic visions in contemporary America / Mark Barkun
  • Founding fathers, secret societies : Freemasons, Illuminati, Rosicrucians, and the decoding of the Great Seal / Robert Hieronimus, with Laura Cortner
  • Among the Truthers : a journey through America's growing conspiracist underground / Jonathan Kay
  • Encyclopedia of strange and unexplained phenomena / Jerome Clark
  • Mirage men : an adventure into paranoia, espionage, psychological warfare, and UFO's / Mark Pilkington
  • The mythology of secret societies / J. M. Roberts
  • Area 51 : an uncensored history of America's top secret military base / Annie Jacobson
  • The real story of risk : adventures in a hazardous world / Glenn Croston
  • The secret architecture of our nation's capital : the Masons and the building of Washington, D.C. / David Ovason
  • Nuclear roulette : the truth about the most dangerous energy source on earth / Gar Smith
  • Our final hour : a scientist's warning : how terror, error, and environmental disaster threaten humankind's future in this century--on Earth and beyond / Martin J. Rees
  • Armageddon science : the science of mass destruction / Brian Clegg
  • Counterknowledge : how we surrendered to conspiracy theories, quack medicine, bogus science and fake history / Damian Thompson. 
  • Inside secret societies : what they don't want you to know / Michael Benson
  • A dictionary of superstition / Iona Opie and Moria Tatem (eds)
  • The blunder book : colossal errors, minor mistakes, and surprising slipups that have changed the course of history / by M. Hirsh Goldberg 
  • Pandora's Seed : the unforeseen costs of civilization / Spencer Wells
  • Incredible Coincidence : the baffling world of synchronicity / Alan Vaughan
  • Paranormal America : ghost encounters, UFO sightings, Bigfoot hunts, and other curiosities in religion and culture / Christopher D. Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph O. Baker
  • Fugitives and refugees : a walk in Portland, Oregon / Chuck Palahniuk  
  • The areas of my expertise / John Hodgman
  • Voodoo science : the road from foolishness to fraud / Robert Park
  • Supernatural : your guide through the unexplained, the unearthly, and the unknown / Colin Wilson
  • Why people believe weird things : pseudoscience, superstition, and other confusions of our time / Michael Shermer
I keep having to find more titles for this display!  Which is proving to be an interesting (and entertaining) challenge.  I started out with a short list of titles, over half of the titles on the list above are add-ons.  By the end of the month I will likely get even more creative in my selections.  I'm glad I went with "We're all a little mad here!" as it lets me play fast and loose with the display's scope.

I really wanted to include Stranger than fiction : true stories by Chuck Palahniuk, but our copy is MIA.  However searching for that title led me to another book of non-fiction oddity by Palahniuk, so everything worked out.  John Hodgman's books count as "we're all a little mad here" all on their own, even without delving into their actual content.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, April 8 - 14

Indie Bookstore Sales of Kobo Ebooks Dwarf Google; Still Small
A bit about the small, but solid, niche that Kobo has found for itself enabling small bookstores to sell ebooks and ereaders.

The title pretty much says it all, Germany is not the first country to find the patent invalid.

Ebook software package allows professors to monitor student's "engagement index" - frequency of textbook use, note taking, highlighting, time spent using text book, etc.  The potential upsides - teachers may be able to help students pinpoint study habit issues, and possible better flow of information in future textbook editions or possibly better choices in future text book purchases.  Potential downsides - "engagement index" with textbooks has quite clearly in the trial run not necessarily had correlation to class performance, it can give an incorrect or overgeneralized view of a student, and it can give the wrong feedback on the course itself.  At the end of the article the teacher wonders if he's not challenging his students enough (based on textbook "engagement"), he could also actually be teaching them very well or providing very clear notes, it is never as simple as "how much time did someone spend interacting with their assigned reading?"  I find the idea a bit too invasive and "Big Brother"-ish, and it does upset me to some extent that the students find that a comical aspect, but little more than that.

A fantastic Q&A with the author of Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Reading on technology and reading.
So it is refreshing to see Jason Merkoski, a leader of the team that built Amazon’s first Kindle, dispense with the usual techo-utopianism and say, “I think we’ve made a proverbial pact with the devil in digitizing our words.” And this: “If you’re willing to overlook the fact that Big Brother won’t be a politician but an ad man and that he’ll have the face of Google.” Mr. Merkoski even has mixed feelings about Amazon, which he left two years ago. “It’s hard to love Amazon,” he notes. “Not the way we love Apple or a bookstore.”
Wow.  This is fantastic, we don't have the medical knowledge or experience to handle some of the things that come up.  Also a fantastic resource since people regularly call the library asking about clinics or doing further research on medical conditions.  Sometimes you need someone other than your doctor that you can just go up to and get consultations from.
Public libraries have long been the go-to place to borrow books, attend classes or log on to public computers. But over the last decade, they have also become shelters for people in need, including the mentally ill, battered women, latchkey kids and new immigrants.
Acknowledging that reality, libraries in Tucson, Ariz., have become the first in the nation to provide registered nurses along with their other services. Placing nurses in six branches is a nod to the widely accepted transition of public libraries into de facto community centers.
We don't have a nurse on staff, and we legally cannot give medical advice.  We can however direct people to resources on finding doctors or medical help.
Book Publishing After the JOBS Act Revolution
I discovered the blog Go To Hellman a few months back and have been following since.  He's writing in this post about something I had been completely out of touch with... the potential for opening up crowd-sourcing to businesses and allowing equity shares in return for crowd-sourcing.  As I this had existed previously under my radar, it made a great read, and I need to be paying attention to the possibilities it brings particularly in regards to publishing.

Saga #12 Banned by Apple : Latest issue banned for small depiction of gay sex.
And more on the Washington Post on the same story.
It's not the first time this has happened and it probably won't be the last, but following up Apple's ban of Image Comics' Sex #1 on Comixology's iOS app, Apple is now prohibiting sale of Saga #12. Why? According to writer Brian K. Vaughan, for two "postage stamp-sized" depictions of gay sex.

The Douglas County Libraries have been creating this report every month since at least this past September.  This current month's report has more availability in titles that libraries can purchase, and gives some hope for pricing.  What isn't shown in the chart is the ownership model associated with the titles.  Some have a 26 check out limit, some we "own", and so on and so forth.

Microsoft Game Director Adam Orth Resigns Following Xbox Comments
I'm not celebrating this, but I'm also not horribly surprised.  Our lives are becoming increasingly public, particularly if you are in a position of note (or even if you're a librarian with a sense of humor).  It's fun to rant and rave out things, including making outrageous statements.  My personal suspicion (and likely that of many others) is that Mr. Orth resigned under pressure.  This is purely conjecture on my part, but he would be far from the first professional to have done so.  I did find the tone

Sunday, April 14, 2013

[Book Review] Fifty shades of brains

EDIT: I'm bloody tired of getting 50 Shades of Grey spam posts on this review thanking me for writing this and talking about how great E. L. James' book is (or that the movie will be).  Seriously, half of this post is about how I can't stand 50 Shades of Grey.  Comments are now turned off.

Fifty shades of brains / B. F. Dealeo (book website, Powell's Books)

When Survival School student Aurora Foyle interviews Seattle's premiere zombie hunter, Caligula Green, she encounters a man who is intense, intelligent and incredibly perverse… and not in a good way. She falls for him nonetheless and agrees to become his apprentice in order to remain at his side (or better yet, on his lap).
Unfortunately, as the controlling, charismatic Green starts to train Aurora in the fine art of offing the undead, she discovers the zombie apocalypse has affected her lover far more than she imagined. In fact, the guy may have gone slightly insane -- something that may happen to her if she's not careful.

Dark, droll and delightfully depraved, Fifty Shades of Brains will amuse you, disgust you, and it just might eat your face off.
At one point I thought the 50 shades books were kind of cool, I mean, they were an amazing example of success with self-publishing, breaking boundaries in sexual content in popular novels, and introducing people to new aspects of sexuality.  Right?

Then I actually read the books.  Actually, I started hearing some things that made me be not so sure about the series pretty early on and then read the books.  Either way, I believe that if I'm to tear apart a book that I should at least have read it first.

I have read all three books.  Even my fiance was happy when I finished reading them.  The only "tingling" I got from the book was not "down there" but one of wishing bodily harm on fictional characters.  Let's just leave it as I found it to be a very misleading and unsafe representation of the lifestyle/sexuality that it supposedly exposes, filled with characters that were utterly un-engaging, and poorly written to boot.

There is one thing about 50 shades that I do like though - the parodies and criticisms that have resulted (this is one of my favorites, a hysterical chapter by chapter tear down), including titles like Fifty Sheds of Grey or Fifty Shames of Earl Grey.  I may have not read these books, but the titles make me smile.

Then I came across Fifty shades of brains.  They had me at "Sex.  Zombies.  Really Annoying Present Tense Narration."  The rest of the synopsis had me laughing so hard I was crying.  At work.

Fifty shades of brains is sick, twisted, hysterically funny, and brilliantly written.  And did I mention sick (if having a main character named 'Caligula' wasn't enough of a hint)?  This book is ridiculous on par with Evil Dead/Army of Darkness, but with sex and witty lines from more than Bruce Campbell.  And now I'm picturing Bruce Campbell as Christian Grey and I'm REALLY not sure how I feel about that.

Moving on now.

Obviously as a parody book it is useful to have at least a passing familiarity with the source material, in this case, Twilight and Masters of the Universe/Fifty Shades of Grey.  The book is still hilarious on top of being sick and twisted without the familiarity, but lacking that would mean missing a number of clever jokes.  Little things like "my inner goddess/rebel-without-a-cause/psycho chick/librarian/etc" or the 10-page contract ("Flip back to Chapter 7 if you really need to read these again. What kind of book would print these twice?  Or three times?") complete with safewords ("Shit, you've gotta be kidding me?" and "Fuck you, asshole!  You're on your own!") are a little bit funnier when you know what they're spoofing.

A few of the bits that made me snicker/chortle/or otherwise express mirth:
"He looks across the table at me, his eyes burning with unfathomable emotion. Or maybe it's conjunctivitis." (p.42)

"There's something about you, Aurora. Something completely irritating, yet irresistible, like a badly written BDSM novel." (p. 42)
"Hard Limits: Never fight zombies with fire. Never fight zombies with gynecological instruments. Never fight zombies with leopard stilettos." (p. 63)

"Suddenly it was like I was dating a needy vampire." (p. 154)
Fifty shades of brains can be read online for free or you can buy a DRM-free ebook or the physical book.  Quick note on the ebook, it is available through them directly as PDF or EPUB and sideload the file, or you can buy for Nook/Kobo/Kindle for a slightly higher price and access through the appropriate app.  If this sounds amusing but you'd prefer to read something where one of the leads doesn't get turned on by zombie killing I'd recommend checking out another project by one of the authors, a fun library comic named Unshelved.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fun with "sexy" covers

Right now I completely adore Jim C. Hines.  I need familiarity with more of Jim C. Hines' work, but I enjoy what I have read, finding it both creative and funny.  I read a ridiculous amount, and I will be the first to admit that I regularly laugh at the covers of novels (particularly sci-fi and fantasy novels).  Now add in my for things such as Men-Ups and you'll soon understand this facet of my adoration.

Yes, he decided to examine, through experience, the ridiculousness that makes up book cover model poses.

It's not just women that are given ridiculous representation on novels, have you ever looked at romance novel covers (though often they are in slightly more comfortable poses)?

Here we have the "glistening chest/nostril shot."  In fact, there are LOTS of glistening chest covers, both with and without faces.
Again, another example of cropping right above the nostril, however he got to keep his shirt.  So I feel I need to follow it up with another shirtless cover.
Here we have a implied coitus cover, but I have no clue where his legs are.  I mean, seriously, it almost looks like he's standing.  On closer inspection I realize the shadow behind her might be his legs.  This cover also brings up a pet peeve of mine... this is a "historical romance" but there is nothing "historical" about her lingerie.

For some reason a lot of covers with similar poses seem to have his face in her neck.

This is actually a nice selection showcasing most of the classic covers, mostly missing a woman pressed against a manly chest with pecs larger than her head.

For the most part they just get to stand there and look pretty, minus the contortion.  I'm not a big romance reader, though I've begun exploring the genre through the Vaginal Fantasy Bookclub as I love the people running it and love their book discussions.  Definitely a bit embarassed by some of the covers on titles I have to request through ILL.  When I'm lucky we have them on the shelves or in ebook format.as

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A short list of things to not do in the library

I'd like to share a short list of things that may get you banned from the library, or at the very least bring down the wrath of the librarians, regardless of how explicit the building policies:
  • Dealing drugs inside the library
  • Doing drugs inside the library
  • Overdosing on drugs in the library (being found unconscious in the bathroom is for bonus points)
  • Rolling cigarettes inside the library
  • Leaping from a balcony/ledge to the floor below it
  • Exposing yourself (additionally humping the desk is also frowned upon)
  • Taint punching

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

[Book Review] It's only slow food until you try and eat it : Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter Gatherer

It's only slow food until you try and eat it : Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter Gatherer / Bill Heavy (Grove/Atlantic, Powell's Books)
Longtime Field & Stream contributor Bill Heavey saw early on that while the outdoors world was full of experts, “the other end of the skill spectrum was wide open,” and he has become the magazine’s most popular voice by writing for sportsmen with more enthusiasm than skill. In his first full-length book, Heavey chronicles his attempts to “eat wild,” trying to see how much of his own food he could hunt, fish, grow, and forage.

But Heavey is not your typical hunter-gatherer. Living inside the D.C. Beltway, and a single dad to a twelve-year-old daughter who at one point declares, “I hate nature food!”, he’s almost completely ignorant of gardening and foraging. Mesmerized by the power of a rototiller, Heavey tears up twice as much of his backyard as he intended. Incensed at the squirrels destroying his tomatoes, he is driven to rodent murder.

Along the way, Heavey is guided by a number of unlikely teachers, from Paula, the eccentric whose under-the-table bait business is so big that she’s known as “the Pablo Escobar of herring,” to Hue, an ex-military survival instructor and foraging expert with a mystical side, and Michelle, an attractive single mom who is unselfconsciously devoted to eating locally. He travels to Louisiana to go frog “grabbing” with a Cajun alligator-skinner, hunts for caribou on the Alaskan tundra with Gwich’in Indians, and surf casts with an urban forager in San Francisco. To the delight of his readers and to his daughter’s intense embarrassment, he also suffers blood loss, humiliation, and learns, as he puts it, that “‘edible’ is not to be confused with ‘tasty.’”
In It's only slow food Heavey takes us along a journey of discovering what's in his own backyard, across the United States, and of growing one's own family in a witty and self-deprecating tale.

I won't lie, I have a soft spot for outdoors misadventure stories.  They often serve the dual purposes of education and entertainment.  And Bill Heavey has made a sucessful career out of telling exactly this type of story.

Perhaps the most enlightening part of this book for me was not that edibles are all around us (I've been using that trick to wierd out people for some 15 years), but instead bringing up drastically different ways of life encountered in his travels.  After reading this book I couldn't help but feel that we take so much for granted as necessary.  Maybe necessary for "mainstream" lifestyles, but far from necessary for a productive life.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, April 1 - April 7

I am often guilty of posting an overwhelming number of articles to my friend's social media feeds.  So lets see how well collecting and posting batches works (for certain topics at least).

National Library Worker's Day 
Do you have a favorite librarian?  Then submit them for recognition, it gives us warm fuzzies.
NLWD is a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.

The Best Fantasy Novels You Probably (Haven't) Read
Being a significant book geek, I have read, or have been meaning to read most of this list.  Those that fell in neither category are now on my "to read" list, as there are fantastic book recommendations here.

Goodreads pledges to remain "independent entity"
A little more on the Amazon purchase of Goodreads.

Give 'em What They Want?
A fantastic article by Jamie LaRue, Director of Douglas County Libraries, Colorado, on providing ebooks, changing acquisition models, and the whole related malestorm.  The Douglas County Libraries have developed their own library ebook platform, and also have been compiling a great monthly report of cost and availability of best seller books across genres and formats.

Impact of the Supreme Court's Decision in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley
A bit more comprehensible break down of the court decision, with conclusions drawn about the impact for libraries at the end.  Worth reading.

America's First Virtual Library Opens at Suburban Station
These exist in other countries already in various incarnations, but interesting to see how this model works here.

Call in the lawyers
Threats of legal action by a publisher against another librarian for publicly posting criticism.

Filtering and the First Amendment
A retrospective look at CIPA, the current state and impact of use, and a look forward.  I find this a particularly useful article because it helps guide in how to work within the restrictions of CIPA, which I may have to work with at some point.  I also find this a useful article because it draws out errors in attempts to enforce CIPA and I hope it will help increase freedom of access to information that has been incorrectly blocked.  I am not a fan of filtering, but if doing so is mandated in my place of employment I do not want to filter more than necessary.

Digital Public Library of America Is Launched
File under "this is so cool" - Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America, to be launched on April 18, is a project to make the holdings of America’s research libraries, archives, and museums available to all Americans—and eventually to everyone in the world—online and free of charge.
CFAA 2013: Congress’ New Draft Could Incarcerate Teenagers That Read News Online
Do I think there would be a huge spate of teens dragged into court if this passes?  No.  Do I think it creates a large loophole that could be exploited dangerously?  Yes.
According to the new proposal floated by the House Judiciary Committee, the CFAA, which was originally passed in 1984 as a measure to thwart hacking, would be amended to treat any violation of a website’s Terms of Service – or an employer’s Terms of Use policy – as a criminal act. Under the proposed changes, users could be punished and possibly even prosecuted for accessing a website in a way it wasn’t meant to be used.
A tool to make word clouds, shared for fun.

Xbox's Adam Oirth doesn't get 'always on' concerns
Now, I get that we all vent our frustrations, sometimes in a more public manner than is wise.  Unfortuantely I do not think that Mr. Oirth gets the full irony of some of his statements, such as this one: "The mobile reception in the area I live in is spotty and unreliable.  I will not buy a mobile phone."  That actually does apply to people (if most of the time you can't use it, why buy one), with the gap sometimes filled in with low use Pay-As-You-Go or work cell phones.  To me there is an arrogance in mocking lack of access to internet (or even cell) connectivity.  There is still a dramatic divide in access, at times for reasons other than income.  There's also still a place for single-player games, and multi-player is often the most fun with other people at the same location.

Film studios request removal of takedown notices
Part of me finds this hysterically funny.
Google receives 20 million "takedown" requests, officially known as DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notices, a month. They are all published online.

Recent submissions by Fox and Universal Studios include requests for the removal of previous takedown notices.
Yup, that's right, a DMCA takedown request for DMCA takedown requests.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Book Love: The Awesome Parody Edition

Lets combine a few awesome things, like Reading Rainbow & Jim Morrison (or at least a well done Jim Morrison imitation)!

Monday, April 1, 2013

A disturbance in the Force : personal reactions to the Amazon purchase of Goodreads

A few days behind the curve, I found out today that Amazon.com has purchased Goodreads.

I am conflicted, and really the only thing comforting me is quite how many other people are also rather upset at this development.

From the official blog post announcement:
Today I'm really happy to announce a new milestone for Goodreads: We are joining the Amazon family. We truly could not think of a more perfect partner for Goodreads as we both share a love of books and an appreciation for the authors who write them. We also both love to invent products and services that touch millions of people.

I'm excited about this for three reasons:

1. With the reach and resources of Amazon, Goodreads can introduce more readers to our vibrant community of book lovers and create an even better experience for our members.
2. Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time. Now we're looking forward to bringing Goodreads to the most popular e-reader in the world, Kindle, and further reinventing what reading can be.
3. Amazon supports us continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Goodreads brand and with our unique culture.  
I'm a tad bit annoyed right off the bat about how a utterly fantastic open book resource is being brought to the world of dedicated e-readers for Kindles only.  Because walled gardens are such a fantastic thing to be excited about (and dear lord, the existing app for tablets/smartphones could use some work, the forum support is terrible).  I also strongly feel that for sites/services such as Goodreads/LibraryThing/etc, a buy out should not be the pre-requisite for collaboration with a bookseller, which seems to be the big thing about this purchase.

Goodreads and Amazon have not always gotten along.  I think I heard something about this in passing on Friday, and was really puzzled because of their history.  Then I finally got to reading my work email from Friday and found out, nope, it was not a joke and Amazon is purchasing Goodreads.

I haven't decided if I'm going to leave Goodreads or not just yet, but I am leaning towards exporting everything to my LibraryThing account and deletion of my Goodreads account.  I just want to be deliberate about it, and not change over simply as a knee-jerk reaction.  It's not going to be convenient at first, I enjoy the community of Goodreads and the book clubs discussions.  But for me it is boiling down to an ethical issue, and I guess that's the thing about ethics, as much as we want them to be, they just are not always convenient.  When it comes down to it, my membership to a site like Goodreads may not have large implications, but it does matter to me, and from the comments on the purchase announcement, it matters to MANY other Goodreads users, some of whom have already deleted their accounts.

In the past few years I have almost completely stopped using Amazon, and if a vendor ONLY has an online store through Amazon if I get it at all I've probably let six months to a year go by before caving.  I can use Kindles just fine, and Kindle Fires (even if I don't see the point of buing one).  I'm even pretty good at figuring out what's wrong with them and how to fix it with a little forum searching.  Without going into the full explanation right now (which I can go on about for quite some length, just ask me about it at a party some time), I have ethical and personal issues with Amazon based on their treatment of customers, their lack of respect for privacy, and for generally not playing well with others.

The problem with avoiding Amazon, even for simple searches, is they are all over the place and have some pretty good tools.  They own IMDB, and I will admit it is a strong resource that I utilize regularly.  I used Goodreads often in a professional context, for work on displays, collection development, and helping patrons, and I used Goodreads because it was a rich, relatively neutral, resource with a fantastic user base contributing to the knowledge about books.  Not only that, but if you were interested in purchasing books, it supported searching a range of stores.  Somehow I don't thing we'll be seeing links to buy it at Barnes & Noble much longer, among other stores.

So right now I'm giving it some time to stew.  I've exported my data to LibraryThing for now, not sure if this is my final step or if I'll explore some of the other options, and I'm not updating any of my reading progress on Goodreads while I ponder.  There is honestly a good chance that Amazon will not change anything significant about the site (besides harvesting data).  My issues are also beyond the fact that they'd be harvesting my data, though that is included.  Maybe part of me has never forgiven Amazon from starting out as this amazing and revolutionary company to developing into a bit of a dick.  If that's the case, maybe its because they keep doing things to renew my frustration and irritation.  I don't know, we'll see how things settle out in my head over the next few days.  Hell, I don't even know what to use as a tag for this entry yet.

Some additional reading:
The Simple Reason why Goodreads is so Valuable to Amazon (The Atlantic)
Amazon Buys Goodreads. Take That, Bookish!  (Forbes)
Three Hidden Benefits of the Amazon Acquisition of Goodreads (Forbes)
Amazon's Plan to Own Writing and Reading Advances with Goodreads Buy (Wired)
Comments and discussion of the purchase by the founder of LibraryThing
LibraryThing to offer free membership (unlimited library beyond 200 books) for a year due to flood of incoming new members. I was able to import some four or five hundred titles to my library from Goodreads with no issue, but additional books will require a membership.  I will likely be paying for a lifetime membership shortly even if I branch out to other book sites.
Escaping Amazon Google+ group
Alternatives to Goodreads spreadsheet (41 at the time of linking)
11 Alternatives to Goodreads