Monday, March 28, 2011

Week 11: Guest Lecture

Here is the guest lecture from Bobbi Newman:

If transliteracy is the future of literacy, what happens to publishing and how does the role of libraries change?

Hello everyone! I’m writing from an apartment filled with moving boxes, I’ve just relocated from Georgia for a position at a public library system in Columbia South Carolina. I’ll be responsible for staff learning and development, I will be helping library staff assist patrons in a transliterate world.

We are in the midst of exciting and challenging time for both libraries and publishers.  Advances in technology have allowed society to re-examine (and perhaps redefine) what exactly is a book. Ebooks or electronic books have been around for years, but it’s only recently with the increase in popularity of devices like the the Kindle and the Nook that use among the general population has taken off. It is worth noting that despite the attention and time given to the issue of ebooks that they still account for a small portion of sales. 1

The ebook landscape is still evolving so while we generally have an idea of ebooks that we agree upon, there are file format differences between vendors, not to mention DRM (Digital Rights Management). DRM is technology used by publishers, and others, to control and limit access to digital content. Both the lack of an industry standard for a file format and the demands of DRM create a burden for libraries. DRM places additional limitations and requirements for the download process that makes accessing and using library ebooks a less than elegant process.

Note: Image from:

With the announcement of the iPad in April of 2010 a new twist was introduced to electronic books. The interactive ability of the iPad allowed a whole new dimension to books the embedding or linking to additional content. As Rinzler notes these interactive books are actually apps that must be purchased from the app store not the iBooks store. Which might beg the question: are they books? Or what IS a book?

YouTube video review of Cat in the Hat App

Because the ebook landscape is still evolving the lending/leasing/buying model between publishers and libraries is still evolving too. Recent HarperCollins decided that ebooks leased by libraries will only be good for 26 check-outs, after that they expire and libraries will be forced to pay for the title again. This creates additional budgetary problems for libraries as well as concerns on how to manage the title affected.

As the world is changing around us so is the role of libraries. It is now necessary for library staff to understand the different file formats and able to explain these to our patrons.  The general public does not understand the difference between an epub vs pdf ebook file and the need to explain the differences in file format often comes in to play while assisting with ebooks. Staff may need to explain why the popular Amazon Kindle does not work with library ebooks, and they need to do so in a way that is free from jargon and techno-speak. Staff need to be able to pick up on an reader they may have never seen before and assist a patron with its usage. This can be especially hard because of the variety of ebook devices or ereaders on the market. Many libraries can not afford to purchase all of these devices for staff learning.

The emerging ebook eco-system is just one reason that library staff need to be transliterate. The needs of patrons in the 21st Century require a commitment to life long learning and exploration.

How do you define a book?  How do you see the evolution of books in the next 2-5 years? How do you think the coming changes in the capability of books will affect new generations? How will it change the education system?

1. According to Association of American Publishers data, in 2008 ebook sales accounted for approximately 0.5% of all U.S. book sales; a year later, they accounted for 1.3%. Survey of Ebook Penetration and Use in U.S. Public Libraries, Library Journal 2010

Additional reading, watching:

Libraries and Transliteracy – the video version

The Digital Divide Does Not Discriminate


  1. Given technology's ability to break down barriers, I wonder if the future of libraries will ultimatly be found in some form of universal, virtual library? A membership ("library card")would allow the user unlimited downloads of ebooks for one year. These electronic files would obviously have to be copy protected and would have to deactivate themselves after one reading. For this type of library to be truly universal, there would need to be some type of convergence in the publishing industry where all publishers would agree on a common file type that could be read on any reader.

    I suspect that the commercial interests of the publishing industry wouldn't like this idea, but the ultimate function of the library (i.e. making knowledge available to the public) would be served.

  2. The books de-activating after one year...sounds like what Napster did with it's files which would cease to work if your subscription stopped...

    Also, does that mean that virtual libraries or libraries of the future will really be a peer-to-peer network and we *borrow* books that others have while we share what's on our digital bookshelf?

  3. A book, to me, is information bound in a finite space. Books consist of pages, which contained data and/or information. Since cyberspace is limitless and filled with links connecting one to an abundant amount of data and information, books have had to evolve. The Cat in the Hat application works as a primary example. The book transcends the covers and pages and has moved on to digital versions. Of course, traces of the traditional book are still found in the digital literature. For instance, we still use the term “webpage”, or even “bookmarking” when engaging with digital literature.

    When reading this post, I thought of how Google offers their Scholar service ( Instead of having to go through a library, you can search Google Scholar for peer-reviewed articles and books. Not everything is available, but this application is still in its beta state. In the next few years, I think there will be an expansion of materials available outside of the library, so that patrons can get what they want, when they want it. I also think reading materials will become even easier to not only access, but interact with as well. This is already becoming evident with sites formatting reference lists ( and providing email services to share readings.

    The education system will be impacted since students will need to know how to use these new devices. Tools will need to be provided for students to read digital literature. But students will also need to learn how to write digital literature. According to Lankshear and Knobel (2008), the majority of children are already creating content on the web and will expect to have creation capabilities in the future. Teachers must be prepared to not only teach reading digital literature, but creating it as well.

    Lankshear, C. & Michele K. (2008). “Digital Literacy and the Law: Remixing Elements of Lawrence Lessig’s Ideal of “Free Culture”" in Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices, edited by C. Lankshear and M. Knobel. New York: Peter Lang, pp.282-303.

  4. I found a really interesting post (2006) on 'what is a book" by Roger Sperburg. Roger discussed what books may look like in the digital era and that they need to reflect both the pen and paper and electronic era to continue to be viable. He has some intersting points; a book has a beginning and an end, it has an author's viewpoint,a reader's commitment to read the book AND it is something that we 'read' not watch or view. I thought these were all excellent points and they align with Lessig's comment that just because there is social media, electronic media etc. doesn't mean that we would stop reading Hemingway. I don't think that books or libraries will vanish, they're evolving but - there is space for all forms of literacies and all modes, we're just making room for some new ones.

  5. Interesting points raised by Sunil and Carolyn. The ‘finite’ aspect of a book, the ‘bound-ness’; as well as ‘reading’ not viewing: with new media in mind and the concept of ‘continuum’ within nonlinearity, these finiteness and reading are applicable to e-books. The media has always evolved incorporating existing or new media. The books – from leather to palm leaves to paper was transference of media. Their character of ‘finiteness’ is seen within the media applied. There is a beginning and end. Even for a virtual project, there is a limit of connectivity, though there is possibility of the infinite. This infiniteness was there even in paper – you could have built a book with infinite number of pages (like building infinite number of web pages or links). Who thought you could build a wall as long as great wall. That is the potential for an action. Do not the books incorporate photography and art? A book of photography you view, as you view a webpage. If you apply McLuhan concept of sensory experience being enhanced or extended by various media, what troubles us in the virtual world is the missing piece of ‘touch’ or ‘feel’. The libraries going virtual will make it more accessible to people with ‘ubiquitous’ access. But the transference from a media might cause us the sense of ‘touch’.

  6. Thanks so much for your time Bobbi!