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Old 06-03-2008, 10:50 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Stanford faculty debate the good and bad of e-books

Stanford is one of the universities collaborating with Google on the ambitious plan to digitize large numbers of books from the university's libraries. But little has been said yet how this digitized material will be used. The Stanford Daily reports that members of Stanford faculty are not sure about this either and that they disagree to some extent.

Proponent of the project have always argued that the project will provide well-indexed digital books for researchers and "mitigate the need to move books off campus". Neither claim is undisputed, though.

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Some faculty members, however, worry that the digitization of books may lead to even more texts being removed from campus. History Prof. Philippe Buc argued that reading and assimilating the content in books on a computer screen is significantly different from having the book physically present. He cited the difficulty of annotating texts on the screen, which he felt was key to reflection on contents and preparation for discussion. ...

Buc admitted that digitization could have some benefits, but stood by his support for hard copies of texts.

“Digitization should be a servant of traditional scholarship, not a goal in itself,” he said. “We can be intelligent about this, but we cannot be mindlessly utopian. One thing I would advocate is a new undergraduate and graduate library containing the best books for teaching and paper research, on the model of Yale’s new Cross-Campus library. We would just need to duplicate Yale’s shelf-list and add in the areas we teach in that Yale does not teach in.”
I admit, when it comes to research, I am still a paper magnet. Nothing is more satisfying than going through a stack of books and flipping through pages to find relevant information. Others may disagree, but I hope that Google Books and all other related projects will never lead to a decrease in available paper books in libraries.
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Old 06-03-2008, 11:22 AM   #2
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I actually DISLIKE using paper-books for research. If you have a solid format for your scientific or technical e-books (e.g. hyperlinked, nice search-function, cross-linking to other volumes, etc) an e-books is so much more comfortable.
Yes, I like opening a book in the middle or flipping through it to search for a given image (or similar) - but this is just a question of programming the UI.
Give "page galeries" (e.g. showing 4-16 pages "per page"), a "flip bar" where you can click "just left of the middle", a nice index (toc, to images, to tables, index, ...) - and really, the new UI is better

And regarding "annotation on the screen" - well, that is why touchscreens exists. As soon as you add color to your e-readers (and to your touchscreen) I can find not a single point in using p-books for myself. No, really - I cannot.
And we're not even talking about linking to internet-content or automatically updating your books - which would be very welcome in scientific publishing, where books are quite often outdated the moment they get published. At least this is true in the growing field of biotechnologies and related subjects.

But I don't think that p-books will disappear, for the very reason that a large number of people is afraid of using new techniques or so used to p-books that switching to e-books would simply be very hard.
So p-books will still exist - at least for one generation - but I guess they will get more expensive with a growing e-book market. Especially in technical and scientific publishing.
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Old 06-03-2008, 11:23 AM   #3
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Agreed, but I can't bring myself to write on books (not that you should write on library books anyway) which often led me to photocopying or scanning/printing large chunks of materials to scribble on to 'keep everything together (although, tbh, I usually used separate pieces of paper with colour coded and highlighted references ) . Similarly, when you had over 100 students needing access to a book the library only had 3 copies of it was chaos! The librarians had to make copies of the pertinent reading to lend out to prevent all-out war! What a waste of paper!
Having access to a digital format would definitely help in those situations so that a) when you DO get a book, you don't have someone else's comments inconsiderately scrawled all over it and b) you have instant access to the material you need and the option of flipping through musty old pages at your leisure! Would definitely have found it useful when I was at Uni, though I would have never, ever, ever, ever done away with the library!
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Old 06-03-2008, 11:26 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by tirsales View Post
I actually DISLIKE using paper-books for research. If you have a solid format for your scientific or technical e-books (e.g. hyperlinked, nice search-function, cross-linking to other volumes, etc) an e-books is so much more comfortable.
Yes, I like opening a book in the middle or flipping through it to search for a given image (or similar) - but this is just a question of programming the UI.
Give "page galeries" (e.g. showing 4-16 pages "per page"), a "flip bar" where you can click "just left of the middle", a nice index (toc, to images, to tables, index, ...) - and really, the new UI is better

And regarding "annotation on the screen" - well, that is why touchscreens exists. As soon as you add color to your e-readers (and to your touchscreen) I can find not a single point in using p-books for myself. No, really - I cannot.
And we're not even talking about linking to internet-content or automatically updating your books - which would be very welcome in scientific publishing, where books are quite often outdated the moment they get published. At least this is true in the growing field of biotechnologies and related subjects.

But I don't think that p-books will disappear, for the very reason that a large number of people is afraid of using new techniques or so used to p-books that switching to e-books would simply be very hard.
So p-books will still exist - at least for one generation - but I guess they will get more expensive with a growing e-book market. Especially in technical and scientific publishing.
The powers out and the ereader's battery just went dead. What do you do?

Paperbooks serve a purpose, people arent afraid of new technology, theyre skeptical of the downsides (and there are downsides.)
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Old 06-03-2008, 11:29 AM   #5
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Similarly, when you had over 100 students needing access to a book the library only had 3 copies of it was chaos! The librarians had to make copies of the pertinent reading to lend out to prevent all-out war! What a waste of paper!
They are making copies? Oh well, seems like my library is a bit strange. If the books are out (and mind you: 3 books for 100 students is pretty normal) they are out. Bad luck.

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Having access to a digital format would definitely help in those situations so that a) when you DO get a book, you don't have someone else's comments inconsiderately scrawled all over it and b) you have instant access to the material you need and the option of flipping through musty old pages at your leisure! Would definitely have found it useful when I was at Uni,
Yes. And I wouldnt strech my back - I mean: How often would you need 5 or 6 of those really heavy books for working? It is so much more comfortable to just have them on one SD-Card...

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though I would have never, ever, ever, ever done away with the library!
Oh well - give me a nice reading room at the campus and access to an electronic version of the library - and you can keep your library all for yourself
Really - what is a library different from
a) an archive of books (see e-books and a fileserver)
b) a quite reading and working room
?
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Old 06-03-2008, 11:30 AM   #6
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Old 06-03-2008, 12:15 PM   #7
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This sort of ties in, because I just found out that the university where I work is offering electronic downloads for textbooks for the coming fall. Sorry, but I don't know if it is for all courses, but a few minutes of exploring proved that I couldn't find a course that isn't using it. All pdf, but the kids will read them on laptops anyway, so format doesn't really matter. There's a big price break also, with (example) $70 books for $15 electronic, etc.

I was waiting at the car dealership yesterday, and this gentleman kept sending lustful glances in my direction. However, he had a book, and I think he was lusting for my EB-1150!
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Old 06-03-2008, 12:30 PM   #8
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For music, the physical CD and digital MP3 are both made available. Why not do the same for books? Just make both formats available and let the people decide for themselves. Does it really matter as long as people are still reading? It is not like we are comparing paper books with audio books.
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Old 06-03-2008, 12:34 PM   #9
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For music, the physical CD and digital MP3 are both made available. Why not do the same for books? Just make both formats available and let the people decide for themselves. Does it really matter as long as people are still reading? It is not like we are comparing paper books with audio books.
I agree. Though I dont see why you took audio books out of the equation - e-books, p-books, a-books and people can decide what they want.
Quite a number of people I know buy both - e- or b-books and audio-books..
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Old 06-03-2008, 12:43 PM   #10
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I agree. Though I dont see why you took audio books out of the equation - e-books, p-books, a-books and people can decide what they want.
Quite a number of people I know buy both - e- or b-books and audio-books..
Good point, but I really did not mean to take audio books out of the equation. I think audio books are great. I just excluded them out of the comparison since paper books and audio books are completely different delivery methods. You listen to audio books while you read paper books. Whether using paper books or digitalized books, you are still reading.

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Old 06-03-2008, 01:28 PM   #11
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No one here sees any issue with Google scanning entire libraries of copyrighted (copywritten?) books, without permission from the copyright holders? What motive does Google have for this? Their entire business plan is based on monetizing content. They don't PRODUCE content though. We do. I think that's wrong, but that's how the web works, apparently.

Not so printed books. What gives Google the right to monetize printed books without permission from or financial compensation to the lawful copyright holders?

The issue here is not the convenience or inconvenience of ebooks for research. The issue is whether Google has the right to steal content to drive their advertising engine.
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Old 06-03-2008, 01:38 PM   #12
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I have a big problem with Google scanning those books. In fact I have a problem with Google in general.
My statement went for the general case e-book versus the general-case p-book. And I prefer e-books for the reasons mentioned before.

But the question really is: Why is Google doing this? Because publishers and a large percentage of creatives were to ignorant to see the new market. Because no one else (with the right to do so, e.g. the publishers or authors themselves) is doing this and filling the market.
The publishing industrie has a completely home grown problem - and they ATM do nothing to change this.

They e.g. cry that Amazon pays not enough and that they are afraid of Amazon lowering the price because of the Kindle sales. What would be a very possible alternative? Just let other companys (and formats) sell those e-books. It will keep Amazon from getting that market position the publishers fear.
Are they doing this? No. See point ignorance.
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Old 06-03-2008, 01:43 PM   #13
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No one here sees any issue with Google scanning entire libraries of copyrighted (copywritten?) books, without permission from the copyright holders? What motive does Google have for this? Their entire business plan is based on monetizing content. They don't PRODUCE content though. We do. I think that's wrong, but that's how the web works, apparently.

Not so printed books. What gives Google the right to monetize printed books without permission from or financial compensation to the lawful copyright holders?

The issue here is not the convenience or inconvenience of ebooks for research. The issue is whether Google has the right to steal content to drive their advertising engine.
I think you have brought up a valid issue. However, I do not believe that was mentioned in the article. I believe the faculty was just debating the format of the book, paper versus digital.
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Old 06-03-2008, 01:49 PM   #14
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Question for those of you who are so certain you can do effective research via ebooks: what do you do when you need to have more than one book open? When I wrote my doctoral thesis, I sometimes had as many as 10 books open at once. Am I to get several Kindles?
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Old 06-03-2008, 01:49 PM   #15
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I think you have brought up a valid issue. However, I do not believe that was mentioned in the article. I believe the faculty was just debating the format of the book, paper versus digital.
They were. I read the article. If Stanford wants a digital library, which operates AS a library, then debate the merits of digital vs. traditional all day long. Scan away. But that's not what they are doing. They are "sending books off to Google to be scanned" (paraphrase). What does Google do with that scanned book?

When the wolf comes knocking on your door, it's appropriate to question his motives. So when Google, the largest intellectual property pirate on the planet, says to a library, "Hey, we've got a great idea!", the FIRST question should be regarding their intentions, NOT the pros and cons of digital reading.
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