The book is dead – long live the book

So much is said and written about the ‘demise’ of the book these days. However, amongst the media hype and one-eyed negativism that sometimes abounds – there are also rational evangelists who focus on knowledge, culture and the role of digitised text in extending the possibilities for humanity.

At a recent conference hosted by the Association of Independent Schools, I encountered just such an evangelist. Sherman Young, who writes The Book is Dead blog as a companion to his book by the same title (download the first chapter), tantalized the audience with his presentation ‘The Book is Dead’.

Sherman kept the BOOK right in perspective – both past forms and future possibilities were discussed.

Book culture is too often confused with reading culture  – and it is this reading culture that Sherman explained as ‘long-form’ text. A book is a process – it requires time  to write and time to read. A book makes premium  demands of authors and readers: a writer can reflect and dig deeper into ideas, subtly constructing reality, thereby encouraging analysis, thought, reflection. In fact,  in a book the creation of a new reality is delegated to the reader.

Sherman reminded us that in fact BOOKS HAVE BEEN DIGITAL FOR ABOUT 20 YEARS!!

Eureka!  Of course books have been digital – once we got rid of hot metal presses, and moved to typesetting then desktop publishing, all books were digital first, then adapted to be printed.

Now the digital books are getting sophisticated and devices have emerged that make them easy to read. In addition, books are being digitised the world over to share, and to facilitate learning and research. Take a look at the Rare Book Room, and think about the value of this type of easy access to our literary and knowledge heritage.

In an online world we can and have to ensure that books remain – it’s about what books have done that counts. Even Google books are a way of ensuring that books survive.

Of course we also have text that is about communication in short form and speed. Text is everywhere online.

According to Sherman,

books are people thinking; online text, like Twitter, are people talking.

We need books. Even in the 21st century we need places and spaces to slow down, and books to read as ‘long text’.

I wound up the conference with my presentation. It was great to conclude an exciting day that, incidentally, kicked off with a fantastic skyed presentation from Will Richardson on transforming learning in education. Will’s a bit of a star at getting people sitting on the edge of their seats, and so people were pretty much buzzing making  it  easy for me to do a wrap that followed his vision, and also bounced off the exciting ideas that Sherman shared.

As ‘one of their own’ it was my job to try and challenge all the teacher-librarians to go on back to school and work hard at ‘keeping up with every(E)thing.  Oh, and my view is that the book is not dead – it’s just adapting!

Augmented Reality – it’s literacy!

While I’m really interested in all sorts of technology possibilities, as a person responsible for a huge library facility and resource centre I passionately believe that the first and most important ‘augmented reality’ option for children and youth are found in books, magazine, graphic novels and more.

Good books. Good literature. Good augmented reality!!  Through books you can experience so many possibilities, so many  passions and emotions, so much history, exciting mystery, and more.

This week has been a big one for us on the ‘augmented reality’ front!

As our visiting speaker Paul MacDonald from The Children’s Bookshop said to our Year 7 students: “A good book should leave you slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it”.

Paul challenged the boys for an hour with many exciting ideas, and reasons to get into ‘what’s hot’!  He even got into quiz mode to capture every single boy – the prize?  A Cherub beanie!  You’ve never seen such a sea of hands desperate to answer a question about books and authors!  Heaps of boys charged over to the library after getting out of the dining room at lunch time – and queued to grab or reserve the books that Paul had been enticing them with.

Patrick Ness

We also had a fabulous visit from Patrick Ness, who spoke to Year 9.  Talk about mischievous but exciting! He also sat down for a literary lunch discussion with our Extension English students. Patrick was just fantastic at pitching the literacy message to active adolescents.

Oh, and don’t forget the magic of buying your own signed copy of an author’s book!

For me – the first and best form of augmented reality – guaranteed to impact on every aspect of a students learning future – is reading and more reading.  More important than any other technology tool in the whole world!

Local Books iPhone application!

Local Books is a new iPhone App which should be of interest to all book lovers. It’s powered by LibraryThing Local, the LibraryThing member-created database of 51,000 bookstores and libraries around the world.

Local Books is our contribution to keeping the book world interesting. Amazon and other online retailers are great. LibraryThing is great too. But book lovers can’t be happy in a world with fewer and fewer physical bookstores, and a rising threat to libraries. The more we know about this physical book world, the better we can foster it, and the better we can use websites like LibraryThing and Amazon to improve our world, not replace it.

This application is unique – as it draws on the power of a socially-connected and created resources. We have the chance to increase the value of the App too.

I’ve downloaded it – tested – and it works a treat!!

More details from the LibraryThing Blog:

How You Can Help. Even with 51,000 venues, not every bookstore and library is in LibraryThing. If you know of one that’s not in there, go ahead and add it. If you represent the bookstore or library in question, you can “claim” your venue page, and start using LibraryThing to connect to your customers or patrons. Even if they’re all there, most are still missing something—a photograph, a phone number, a good description, a Twitter handle. Events—especially indie bookstores and libraries—are a particular need. It’s a virtuous cycle. The better we can make the data, the more people will find the application useful, and the more people who will make it better

Features include:

  • Search for venues (bookstores and libraries) as well as events near your current location using the iPhone’s built-in location features.
  • Search for venues and events at any location or by name.
  • Venues can be sorted by distance, name, or type.
  • Venues are color coded, following the maps on LibraryThing Local (colors correspond to the colors used on maps in LibraryThing Local).
  • Each venue has a detail page with a map. Tap it to jump to the iPhone Maps application.
  • Venues often sport a description, clickable website and phone number links, events, and a photo.
  • You can favorite locations and events, and there’s a “Favorites” list where you can find them.(1)

Check it out on iTunes.

Spotted in the BookBench at the NewYorker and  promoted on  Twitter  by @librarythingtim - of course :-)

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Book hacks for the library crowd

This is one that I have been meaning to post about for absolutely ages….thank goodness I was not quick and efficient this time :-)

Thanks to Paul Reid who took the trouble to email me the link to Hack Attack: 13 Book Hacks for the Library Crowd.

Covers all the obvious things like integrating your public library catalogue into your own computer; online booksellers; notifications for overdue books; building bibliographies; book downloads etc; as well as cheeky things like an ‘invisible bookshelf’!

So my delay in writing gives you the benefit of the additional information included in the comments. Perhaps you have other recommendations to add to the Book Hacks collation to keep this useful compilation alive.

Photo: FlickrCC