Seeking Details on Websites for Digital Textbooks

This topic is a bit far from “library technology” but part of my day job at OhioLINK has been involved with research on digital textbooks. To that end, I’ve been looking at companies that sell a digital form of the printed-and-bound textbook. The sites that I’ve found are summarized below; I would appreciate comments (public or private) that list other sites that you know about so this list can be as comprehensive as possible. Also, if you happen to be researching the same area, please get in touch if you are interested in comparing notes. The list is broken down into two parts, and the companies are listed alphabetically within each part.

Feeling the Holiday Spirit? Check With Your Lawyers To See if it is Okay

You may have given away your right to feel the holiday spirit via some click-through license dreamed up by an over-exuberant lawyer. Don’t believe me? Anything is possible in the world of contracts; read on…

An in-law sent me a flash animation card from a site called “Elf Yourself” ™ — no link love here, guess the URL or find it in Google — that has some cartoon elves dancing with the images of this in-law’s family’s faces superimposed on the cartoons. It was cute, and I contemplated sending a reply with the faces of my family. As I typically do, I scanned through the Terms of Use that one must accept before starting and the word “universe” caught my eye. “Self,” I said to myself, “why would the word universe be in the Terms of Use?” So went back and read the entire Terms of Use, and the good bit is in “Grant of Rights” (my own emphasis added):

NIH Mandatory Open Access Provision Becomes Law

President George W. Bush signs into law H.R. 2764, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2008, also known at the omnibus, making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes, after boarding Air Force One Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007. White House photo by Chris Greenberg
President George W. Bush signs into law H.R. 2764, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2008, also known at the omnibus, making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes, after boarding Air Force One Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007. White House photo by Chris Greenberg

Update 20071227T1147 : Title of the post changed to reflect the certainty of the bill being signed into law. Via Peter Suber’s Open Access News comes word from the Washington Post that President Bush signed the bill yesterday. Congratulations to the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and all those involved in making this happen. I’m sure we’ll be following the outcomes and impacts of this law for years to come.

ODCE2008 Preliminary Program, Registration Now Available

ODCE Conference LogoThe preliminary program [PDF] and conference registration for the 2008 Ohio Digital Commons for Education (ODCE) Conference is now available. As a member of the conference planning committee and a track co-chair for the Moving Ohio Forward track, I got an early look at the sessions to be presented and can honestly say that they are an exciting mix of high-tech and high-touch ideas. For example, just in the Moving Ohio Forward track, there are programs about sharing digital learning objects, Creative Commons licensing of digital learning objects, a report on the pilot projects of enhanced online textbooks, and a “blank-easel” attendee participation session called Ohio Has Too Many (Fill in the Blank) Programs; Let’s Get Rid of a Few. All of that, plus a keynote presentation by Eric D. Fingerhut, the new Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, and six preconference workshops, means we’re going to have a great meeting!

Google Sets Its Sights On Hosting Knowledge

Google is typically known for its advertising, search engine, and news aggregation services. From Geoffrey Bilder on crosstech comes word of a new Google effort called “knol” that will “to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it.” Sound familiar? We typically call such a thing an “encyclopedia” and it is a new in-road into information hosting. Details are scarce beyond the posting by Udi Manber (VP Engineering at Google) linked above (which also says “The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing.”). But one of the key aspects known is that articles will come from signed authors (more like Citizendium than Wikipedia), not anonymous or pseudo-anonymous editors (“We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content.”). Here are some other key aspects extracted from the blog posting:

Advocates of the Balance Between the Rights of Intellectual Property Owners and the Rights of Information Users

The American Library Association Committee on Professional Ethics is proposing changes to the Code of Ethics.1 Other than two minor changes (adding commas where there were none previously — see the proposed changes page for details), the big change is in article 4, which now reads:

We recognize and respect intellectual property rights.

The recommended version reads:

We recognize and advocate balance between the rights of intellectual property owners and the rights of information users.

This is a good change. It puts the librarian profession at the crux of publisher’s rights and user’s rights — a position that is increasingly non-existent in what seems like an increasingly polarized world.

Getting On With ‘The Future of Descriptive Enrichment’

Roy Tennant is advocating the phrase “Descriptive Enrichment” over “Bibliographic Control” in response to draft report from the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control, and I’m stepping up to say — I’m right there with you, Roy!1 Your analysis reminds me of statements made by David Weinberger in the Google Tech Talk in response to his book Everything is Miscellaneous. David offers new definitions to words that we use regularly: “metadata” is what we know and “data” is what we want to find out. In the talk, he gave an example (29 minutes and 25 seconds into the playback; this link will take you right there) of using something you know — like a quote from a book — to find something you don’t know — like the author — by putting the quote into a search engine. The “metadata” (the quote) was used to find the “data” (the author) that was being sought.

Draft Specifications of OAI Object Reuse and Exchange Now Available

ORE logoLast night, Herbert Van de Sompel announced the availability of the draft specifications and user guide for Object Reuse and Exchange (ORE). This effort, under the auspices of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), seeks to define a standard for the description and exchange of aggregations of web resources.

NISO IR Presentation: “The Third Wave of Library Information Stewardship”

On Monday, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at the NISO workshop “Getting the Most Out of Your Institutional Repository” on the topic of The Third Wave of Library Information Stewardship. The presentation abstract was:

[Academic] Libraries are gearing up for the third wave of information under our stewardship. In the first wave, libraries purchased, made discoverable, and managed information from commercial sources in physical forms (e.g., paper-bound monographs, traditional serials, and microform archives). In the second wave, libraries licensed, made discoverable, and supported information from commercial sources in digital form (e.g., electronic journals, index/abstract databases, and image collections).