Jun 25 2011
I just wanted you to see some of the video clips showing up in presentations at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference this weekend in New Orleans.
First, one of the top prize winners in the ALA’s Why I Need My Library Contest: Danielle Driggers, Timber Creek Elementary School, Flower Mound, Texas. Here’s one very talented digital native who still loves her library for its books.
Then three was this one of Andy Rooney (not to be accused of being a digital native), opining on a recent episode of 60 Minutes, about the absurdity of ebook readers displacing printed books, a video which was played at the opening of OCLC’s symposium on “The Infinite Library.” (The embed feature on YouTube won’t let me insert this particular video, but you can follow the link to the YouTube version.)
Quipped symposium moderator Brian Schottlaender (U. California, San Diego), “He just doesn’t get it,” a phrase often used by technophiles to summarily dismiss any opinion that deviates from their own. I’m actually not a big Andy Rooney fan, but I do think he is not alone in his opinion that a book is a book and has intrinsic value as such.
The other video shown at the OCLC event and much quoted in subsequent ALA sessions is this demonstration at the TED conference of a next generation ebook, Al Gore’s Our Choice (sequel to An Inconvenient Truth), which according to its publisher/creator “not only plays on the iPad, but also the iPhone.”
[Video No Longer Available]
Librarians at ALA who are, in various sessions, deliberating the future of not only books but of libraries are both enthusiastic and cautious in their assessment of these device-specific content offerings. But there is no question that the sessions on ebooks have been standing room only.
Jun 17 2011
It did not take very long working with my iPad to appreciate that my files were not going to go with me in the same way that they have traveled with me on my laptop computer.
Whenever I protested about file management on the device, IT people in the know would refer me to DropBox. I did open an account . . . and I did come to appreciate that remote storage of files is, indeed, a way to always have your files with you. But, call me old-fashioned, there are things about this that still make me feel exposed and vulnerable.
It’s possibly just an arcane hangover from my past life in Corporate America, but the idea of storing my personal documents, photos, and files on some remote server doesn’t make me feel at all secure, private or as warm and cuddly as the vendor spiels imply I should be.
To see if I could get over my hangups, I attended the Computer Forensics Show in New York a couple months ago. What I heard there was not all negative, but it did include a good number of cautionary tales from lawyers and law enforcement officers and detectives about the risks associated with storing your stuff on computers of unknown location and legal jurisdiction.
So when I saw this video on The Soup last week, I had to chuckle about how art does in fact reflect reality . . .
As I have noted previously here, I think it’s truly a shame that the tablet devices are being wrapped up in this whole “cloud” techno movement.
Yes, I can appreciate that many people must be having significant file management problems because their digital assets are being scattered over many devices (digital cameras, cell phones, tablets, PC’s and yes, even, remote storage sites). And yes, I can see that putting all your stuff in one place so you can theoretically access it from anywhere is a possible solution to the problem. But what if you are not able to gain access from wherever you are? And what if these sites just go away some day? or get hacked? or raided by local authorities? or . . . or… or….
Having lived around digital content for a couple of decades now, I simply don’t believe that there’s a quick long-term fix. Ultimately, if you want to preserve your files, you’re going to have to take responsibility for managing them and backing them up, even if you keep them on a remote computer somewhere in the cloud.
As an advertising message, iCloud’s pledge of keeping track of your content assets no doubt resonates with many users. And for many it and other cloud-based storage options may well be the option for file management on the iPad and other portable devices. However, it’s not a real answer for many enterprise workers, who’s company management and legal teams are simply not going to accept the exposure, at least not yet. Some sources report, however, that in this environment companies are increasing interested in developing their own proprietary “clouds.”
Jun 10 2011
Using the iPad User Manual in PDF form as an example, here’s my best take on how files management works on the iPad.
In earlier comments I have opined that it’s hard to get a document on to the machine and once you do, it’s difficult to move it around to a place where you might use it or store it for further offline reference.
A comment on a previous post suggested I get the manual and read up on things like file storage. You can find the manual here: http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/iPad_iOS4_User_Guide.pdf
But it doesn’t address this issue at any level of detail.
Photo management, as I observed earlier, is very well covered, but not things like work files… Text files, spreadsheets, PDFs, … Those things we use in business all the time and those things that professionals like me are going to want to access on the road.
I’ve looked at the manual now, but this is what it still looks like to me…
Let me walk you through it, left to right, top to bottom.
1. Using built-in Safarai browser, I retrieve the PDF from the web site.
2. Couple of minutes later, the download completes (about 30 mg).
3. Clicking on the file folder arrow key gives me four default options: add bookmark, add (a link) to the home screen, mail a link to the page, or print (to a air port printer)
You will note none of those options is a “save this document” item. These four options are what comes built into the browser.
4. (2nd row, middle picture) Because I’ve paid extra for a printing app, a PDF markup app, and a file management app, I DO have some file saving options that will appear if I press the upper right of the top of the document. Upon pressing that upper right zone, a magic bar appears briefly. It gives two options: Open in FileViewer (one of the apps you can buy to manage files on the device) or Open In (other apps I have paid to add on).
5. Other apps I have added on to help with such file management tasks.
6. Successfully saved PDF to my file manager app.
Below the grey bar, which points you to the iPad manual, are some screen shots of the manual itself as it appears, not as a PDF but as a display optimized for delivery to the device.
This online iteration is clearly the better way to view the content. So why am I obsessing about downloading and keeping on the machine a copy of the PDF. For one thing I’m not always online, including when in airplane safe mode, and besides I just want a backup copy, which I don’t think is either unreasonable or old fashioned.
So, the long and short of it is, yes, you can take a PDF off the web and save it here, but it takes several steps, it takes some add on apps, and even when you get it to the device, there does not appear to be a way to drag and drop it someplace else, as one would expect to be able to do on computing devices.
Some of my, let’s call it dyslexia, with the iPad interface is no doubt due to the fact that I am emigrating from a PC and not from an iPhone or an iPod. However, since the buyers of tablets tend to be older, I’m guessing that I am not the only one leapfrogging the phone and encountering this interface for the first time.
I stand by my original criticisms, especially the one about not being able to simply move files onto the device from a USB drive. Not all files I need to get to are on the public web or even in the cloud. I can’t force the people who want to share files with me to use DropBox or other third party servers just to communicate with me.
BTW: For kicks and in the interests of fully exploring the options, I also pulled the file onto my PC, added it to my drop box folder, and in time was able to view it on my iPad within the DropBox App.
The iPad apps and the cloud options are possibly necessary to use this device for file management, but I still do not find them sufficient,
Jun 3 2011
It has, as you can see from the post date, taken me some days to dig out from having been away from a real computer for so long. To be honest, I wasn’t actually away from PCs the whole time I was in Europe working primarily from my iPad, I was only using PCs in emergencies, like when my iPad just couldn’t print the boarding pass at the end of the online check-in at BA.com . . .
Printing is indeed one of the show-stoppers on an iPad. Though I have bought some apps that are supposed to help with that, including a printing suite that will access local wireless devices or produce a PDF, it doesn’t work from the Safari browser so I get rather stuck if I actually need to print out a web form, confirmation, or boarding pass from a web site.
The other big deal involves file management in general. The device loves pictures, but it doesn’t really seem to want to handle docs, PDFs, spreadsheets, or any of the other standard office formats upon which a professional worker’s life is based.
Oh, sure I bought the three or four apps that are supposed to help me with this, and they do let me process words and numbers and other stuff. But by “file management,” I mean documents of various kinds don’t seem to want to live together on the device. They want to stay neatly tucked away inside their own apps.
My projects don’t discriminate on the basis of apps or file types. If I’m going to do my work efficiently I need to be able to organize things however I need to group them. I’m going to want to file like subjects together. I’m also going to need to be able to move files on and off the device on the fly.
When the organizers of the ePublishing Inovation Forum in London handed me the meeting handouts and presentations on a memory stick, I couldn’t view them on the device. Yes, the iPads can read (a specially formatted) USB stick, if you have purchased the camera card dongle kit (shown plugged in, above), but they can only see photos and some video files stored on the USB drive. The iPad sees the USB stick as a camera card, not as a remote drive, so when I plugged in the disc with the meeting handouts it saw nothing.
It apparently doesn’t even see its own built-in memory as a drive, i.e., as a place where data of any kind can be stored. You simply cannot upload a PDF or doc or other file to sit on the iPad drive as a data file.
The only way to get a file onto the iPad is to email it to yourself (how late 20th century!) or to download it over a hardwired connection to a PC running iTunes. Yes, DRM fans, it’s true. Even your own intellectual property needs to be funneled through Apple’s copyright protection gateway, a.k.a., iTunes.
Having used computers now since the first Mac came out, I am confused about why the device makers would put such artificial restraints on file movement and storage.
Still, I was able to work around all of that.
What I simply could not figure out was how to dispense with my email. I could handle it–and I love the iPad’s email client, with its rapid navigation and quick attachment displays–but just reviewing and responding to email is not the same as being down with it.
Some years ago I went to a seminar on time management, where the big take-away was this: Never, ever handle the same piece of paper twice.
In the two weeks I was on the road, I handled close to a thousand emails, 50% of which were either junk or occupational spam, and 50% were job-related workflow items requiring my review, comment, or assignment. Though I could read and reply and forward emails from my iPad, I could not file, delete, or mark them as spam. This meant that when I returned to using a PC, my email box was inundated with the same thousand messages I had already dispensed.
In other words, I needed to handle all those “pieces of paper” twice, making me not only an unproductive human being, but a brain-drained knowledge worker. No wonder I haven’t posted to this blog in a week.
So, bottom line …
Email management has thus become the iPad’s tragic flaw, Achilles heel, and counter tipping point for me.
Now, I know some out there will tell me if I use Outlook for my email, it’s supposed to sync with my PC, but I’m not an Outlook user and I am not about to become one just to see if it might work.
Comments welcome from anyone who has figured out any work arounds for this.
BTW: I’m writing and publishing this from my iPad. I will be using the device for many, if not all, things. And I will continue to comment here.
May 26 2011
When I first traveled in Europe a couple decades ago, English had not yet become the lingua franca; and as I went from country to country it really was useful, even necessary, to know at least a few expressions in the host country’s native language.
In sharp contrast to just a few years ago, I must confess that on this current journey, which comes to a close tomorrow, I was never, even once, called upon to resurrect my limited knowledge of foreign tongues.
The oft spoken (albeit brash and boorish) assertion often made by Americans about to go abroad that “everyone speaks English,” is simply not true, according to Professor Alex Waibel (Carnegie Mellon University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) who was speaking today in London at SpeechTek Europe, a conference organized by ITI’s sister company Information Today, Ltd.
Overall only about a third of Europeans speak English well enough to conduct business in English, said Waibel. Of course the rate varies country to country and language to language, and it isn’t just travelers who struggle with official state languages. In some parts of the world whole indigenous groups may need help with the language used by the ruling group.
Waibel went on to quite literally amaze the audience with real-time translation demonstrations on mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad.
Using the appropriate language app, fully downloaded to your mobile device and therefore not requiring g3, g4, or even wifi service in the event you are in a remote area, you simply speak in your native language and the app does the rest. In no time, it comes back with a text translation, which it them proceeds to speak out loud.
These apps, which you can find under the brand name Jibbigo, are the result of 20 years of research and automatic translation testing. Most sell for $4.99 at the iTunes store. Released recently and priced at $27.99 the English/Japanese version became the number one app in Japan the month of its release. Not all languages are available yet, but more are coming soon.
“The goal” of all of this, said Waibel, “is not just to bridge the digital divide, but make it transparent.”
May 24 2011
Arriving a few minutes early for my tour of the innovation center at DOK, the Delft public library, yesterday, I had barely said hello to my good friends and associates Erik and Jaap when I heard myself demanding as a top priority–and even before accepting a cup of coffee–that I needed a wifi connection …. and I needed it right NOW! I needed to publish the preceeding blog post before it got stale and before people were awake in the States.
It made me think of the countless times I have seen people (generally young people, though I would not wish to stereotype) walking around engrossed by their cell phones and apparently impervious to anything happening in the real world around them.
It made me think of the little girl from Australia who starred a year or so ago in a video, which has become a cult classic among librarians, with more than 60,000 views on YouTube.
In the short flick, Abbey’s Video, a charmingly cute “terrible-two-year-old” type asserts her demands as a digital native and orders her needs be met … right now!
Book Historian Arianne Baggerman, the opening speaker at last week’s Unbound Book conference in The Netherlands, showed Abbey’s video as an introduction to her own somewhat controversial remarks, which were largely focused on disputing, by citing research data, popular arguments favoring the widespread deployment of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) . . . ICT investment doesn’t make economies more knowledgeable, playing video games doesn’t make kids smarter, and, heck, ICT isn’t even Green.
The book of the future, she concluded, will still be printed on paper, which is “cheap, durable and a good content container.”
Later at the same meeting Anna Mangen, of the University of Stavanger in Norway, demanded to know where the empirical evidence is that backs up the assertions of the techno gurus that using techno gadgets is good for us.
Mangen studies the ergonomics and “tactility of reading,” how our hands and fingers help us comprehend things. What keeps her up nights are thoughts about the “materialities of literacy”: How do we handle books and how do these engagements affect our understanding of things we read about.
We know from past studies how human cognition works with traditional media, but we know nothing about all this new stuff. How will it affect what we know, and how we know it?
As I sat on the train to Brussels this morning, my iPad open in front of me and my fingers tapping out this message, I was reminded of demanding Abbey, defying Arianna and doubting Anna.
I cannot help but agree that there is scant empirical evidence that this unfolding digital drama will end well and the human race will emerge okay. But, on the other hand, and OMG, tapping on my touch screen, engrossed and ignoring the world around me, I worry that I may already be becoming one with the digital natives.
Where does truth lie? Or, is it rather, how do lies become truths?
May 23 2011
The evidence suddenly seems overwhelming. From Kindle to iPad and all tablet devices included, the digital forms that seem to be making it are the ones that resemble the look, feel and format of the printed book.
Speaking in London last week Julian Sambles, from The Telegraph, interestingly enough a newspaper that takes its name from an now arcane form of communications technology once regarded as fast, amused the audience at the ePublishimg forum by showing a video from a year ago about how the newspaper staff initially envisioned an iPad product.
According to the video, the iPad epub would afford its readers a world of possibilities. It would be more than print, with interactive features to show where news is happening in real time, video, geo-tagged views . . . in short it would provide a “luscious, indulgent media experience.”
As it turned out, Sambles said, the true value was not at all in th interactivity and constant updating. Readers of the “paper” actually wanted it to be a finite product. They liked that the editors had chosen a set of content for them to read. And they liked to feel “done” at the end.
Some see such evidence as proof that print formats and traditional editorial paradigms are persistent and will follow us into the mobile, digital age.
Never to be proved wrong, techno futurists shake their heads and deny that the future has actually come. So what if a group of 50-something-year-old readers of The Telegraph wants to use gadgets to blow up the font size and read yesterday’s news tonight in bed. These are simply digital immigrants who don’t get it. And the future remains safe for evangelizing a Utopian future.
I am reminded suddenly that the world was supposed to end the day before yesterday according to some equally zealous fanatics. That you are reading this today, means, of course, it did not.
And that this 50-something-year-old is writing this to you from the old town square of Delft on an iPad may not say anything about the future either, but for the moment if this is as good as computing gets, I have to say it doesn’t need to get much better.
(This post published from the DOK Concept Center the Public Library of Delft, The Netherlands.)
May 20 2011
When it comes to saying just what exactly it is that defines a book and distinguishes the books of the past from the books of the future, a prestigious group of scholars meeting this weekend in The Netherlands was left puzzled today by the riddle.
Most agreed that going forward in our digital world it doesn’t necessarily suffice to say that books are just those tangible printed and bound objects–containing text, figures and illustrations–that we have come to know and love.
The opening panel of experts at today’s session at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in Den Haag asked instead, What in its essence is a book?
Alan Liu, Professor and Chair in the English Department at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he teaches digital humanities, summed it up well when he said a book is equal to a long form of expression intended for the permanent, standard and authoritative communicating of human thought and experience.
Of the terms in this statement, the most contentious would seem to be “long,” “permanent,” “standard” and “authoritative.”
Many speakers today spoke of, or alluded to, the notion that “books,” by definition, need to be fixated in a physical medium, leading some to conclude that today’s “ebooks” are not really books at all, even though they mimic the form.
More details at The Unbound Book conference
May 19 2011
Though there are many ways I would like to rave positively about the new ways my iPad is bringing compute power to my mobile existence, there are some things that simply don’t make sense to me.
When I visit a web site on my iPad’s built-in Safari browser why is it I can’t copy and paste things, like people’s names (always hard to get spelled right) and snippets of text, like oddly spelt product names or phone numbers or mailing addresses? Why is it, I am reduced to taking out a pen and paper and, as in the days or yore, forced to copy things out and then type them in again?
At the ePublishing Forum this week, one of the speakers, Robin Ball from Cambridge University Press, showed this promotional video by Mac-rival tablet maker Kno: http://youtu.be/uL-2Egqc1qc/. The video really does very effectively sum up what I would like to be able to do with content on my iPad, what I need to be able to do with content in order for this device to actually be a productivity tool.
It’s not only the tablet makers, of course, who have to support this, it’s the content owners and distributors. Ball himself admitted that the ideal of being able to note and clip and snip is a way off, even in the progressive education market he was addressing in his remarks.
As someone in the audience at the ePublishing Forum noted yesterday, getting the mix right between protecting intellectual property and permitting people to snip it and clip it and make fair uses of it is challenging . . . but certainly not insurmountable.
I’m really not asking for anything I can’t already do on the web with my PC.
(This post published from the Eurostar boarding lounge, wifi courtesy St. Pancras Station, London.)