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Meaningful Books and Getting to Know the Community

Last Friday I participated in the Meaningful Books Series at Champlain College which is run by my colleague Sarah Cohen. I don’t normally do things like this, but I really love this event series every time I’ve gone, simply because you get to learn a lot more about a member of your community. So I figured I would share myself with the community and help out my friend. We also recorded it so people who couldn’t attend could see it as well. Here’s the last 5 minutes:

Click here to watch the video on YouTube

Also, my friend Becky from library school at UW-Madison told me about a community reception her library runs that highlights faculty scholarship and creativity. So you’d be able to learn more about the accomplishments and wider lives of community members in that way. I just think stuff like this is so cool and think that we should be doing more of it.

Is anyone else hosting events like this?

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The Perfect E-book Reader

Christmas is just around the corner, and I’m sure people are giving their bibliophile loved ones Amazon Kindles or Barnes and Noble Nooks as gifts. There are still some flaws with these devices though. This begs the question, what would the perfect e-book reader look like? What features would it have? Well, the perfect e-book reader…

  • Can do more than just read e-books – E-book readers need web access. In this world of multitasking and shortened attention spans an e-book reader that can only read e-books fails. The average person only reads four books per year. This makes devices dedicated solely to e-books into toys for gadget geeks or people that read voraciously. A device that only reads e-books is still playing to a small market. Also it would be useful while reading an e-book to look up a fact on Wikipedia or share a quote you just read on Twitter.
  • Has multi-touch technology – Instead of having buttons to turn a page simply touch the upper corner of the page, or gesture¬†across¬†the screen like you’re turning a page. If you want to zoom in on an image within a book simply pull your fingers apart around it (similar to the iPhone’s technology). This would certainly enhance the experience of reading an e-book.
  • Reads multiple formats – The perfect e-book reader would be able to read any format in which books happen to be, whether it’s in HTML, PDF, a Google Book, e-books from Amazon, e-books from library subscription databases, etc.
  • Allows you to write in the margins – Like regular books, the perfect e-book reader would allow you to write in the margins and personalize your copy of the book. The reason we love books is because we form personal connections to them. We write notes to ourself and try to interact and have a conversation with the book. The perfect e-book reader would allow you to highlight passages and attach notes to them. It would also allow you to share these notes if you wanted. Then we really could start having conversations with our books.
  • Is readable for long periods of time – It would have to use something like e-ink which more closely mimics a paper reading experience than a backlit LCD display and causes less eyestrain. The device would also have a long battery life. At least enough to make it through an entire book.

Some of these features are possible and in use, but there is still some growing that needs to take place in both technology for a device and e-book standards, practices and legal issues. To create the future, though, we first have to dream it. What else is needed for a perfect e-book reader?

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Slow Down People!

Image from rogiro on Flickr

Image from rogiro on Flickr

My last post was about how students often have very little time. But thinking about the way we consume information in general these days got me thinking more about my personal experiences. I often catch myself with a dozen tabs in Firefox open, Tweetdeck running in the background, Outlook pinging me every few minutes with a new email, and my Blackberry constantly vying for attention. I do find about all sorts of interesting things (like the Leonid meteor shower which I took time to watch this morning), but what is getting one bit of information after another really doing for me?

Students consume information in much the same way, getting updates from Facebook or Twitter, reading stories or blog posts but not digging much deeper. Nicholas Carr compared it to flying along the surface on a jet ski as opposed to a scuba diver exploring what is beneath the surface.

It seems to me that there is much to be gained from slowing down in our information consumption. When we just skip from blog post to blog post, tweet to tweet, we get information, but it never becomes knowledge and we don’t use that information. That’s one reason why I blog, so I can synthesize different thoughts and make a personal connection. Thinking about something and then writing about it makes it more concrete. That’s also why I find it necessary to take time out when I’m feeling overwhelmed and simply drink some tea, or write ideas down in a notebook, or watch a meteor shower.

Slowing down allows you to make connections between those eight articles you just read in your feed reader. It allows you to internalize pieces of information that you otherwise might simply forget or not really understand. That’s why in our information literacy program at Champlain we devote part of one session to talking about slowing down and reflecting. We ask students how or if they slow down to make connections. I feel it is something that is extremely important to discuss when talking about information.

Students are actually pretty thoughtful about it too. I learned about this enlightening TED talk called In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore from a student in one of my sessions. It’s about 20 minutes long. Give it a watch…if you have the time…

Can’t see the video? Click here.