News for the University of Illinois Community

Main | May 2005 »

April 29, 2005

Writers Ask Oprah, Nicely

The Word of Mouth writers organization has delivered an open letter to Oprah Winfrey, signed by over 150 authors (including multiple prize winners and bestsellers), asking her to resume recommending contemporary fiction to her audience.
They assert that: "Fiction sales really began to plummet when the The Oprah Winfrey Book Club went off the air. When you stopped featuring contemporary authors on your program, Book Club members stopped buying new fiction, and this changed the face of American publishing. This phenomenon was a testament to the quality of your programs, the scope of your influence, and the amazing credibility you possess among loyal Book Club readers."
They add: "Readers have trouble finding contemporary books they'll like. They, the readers, need you. And we, the writers, need you. America needs a strong voice that addresses everyone who can read, a voice that will say, 'Let's explore the books that are coming out today. Let's see what moves us, what delights us, what speaks to us in a way that only fiction does.'" Publishers Lunch 4/21/05

Posted by P. Kaufman at 2:37 PM

April 25, 2005


The Digital Library Federation has launched an OAI Portal to catalog the OAI-harvestable repositories at DLF-member institutions. DLF also provides a cross-archive search engine for the set. Excerpt from the (undated) announcement: 'The Digital Library Federation has begun a 2-year project to research, design, and prototype a second generation OAI finding system, capitalizing on the lessons learned from the first wave of OAI harvesting and using, as its raw material, collections drawn from across the DLF membership. Our research here builds on the digital objects, motivated scholarly users, and high-level OAI expertise that we have across our 38-member organization, and is informed by ongoing research into metadata creation and service building at Emory, Michigan, UIUC, and elsewhere, including our colleagues in the NSF's (OAI-based) National Science Digital Library. The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) has proven itself as a protocol that allows basic metadata records to be created by many providers and then gathered up by harvesters who use those records to create library services (e.g. In the act of using it over several years in library settings, however, a range of issues have come to light that need research and development if OAI is going to mature into its full potential: collections as well as item records need further development, and we need richer mechanisms of creating dialog between harvesters and providers; the hurdles to adoption need careful study, particularly how to embed the very idea of creating public, harvestable metadata as a routine step in our digitizing workflows, and how to speed up the feedback loop from a harvester to a community of providers such as exists in the library world, who typically respond positively to such "good practice" guidance. The aim we have clearly in mind is to foster better teaching and scholarship through easier, more relevant discovery of digital resources, and a much greater ability for libraries to build more responsive local services on top of a distributed metadata platform.' Open Access News 4/8/05

Posted by at 10:59 AM


The controversy over the price of college textbooks heated up yesterday as more than 700 math and physics faculty members at 150 colleges called on Thomson Learning, one of the nation's biggest textbook publishers, to reform its policies on pricing and new editions. In two similar letters focused on books in their fields, the professors referred to research compiled last year by the California Public Interest Research Group and sibling organizations, including Massachusetts PIRG, which found that the average student spends $900 per year on textbooks. The organizations maintain that college text prices have increased at four times the rate of inflation for other finished goods since 1994. Writing to Ronald H. Schlosser, chief executive officer of Thomson Learning, the educational division of Thomson Corp., the math professors complained that the fifth edition of ''Calculus: Early Transcendentals," priced at $122, was not substantially different from the fourth edition, which was on the market for only three years. ''We do not believe the content of this particular update justified an entirely new edition," the professors wrote. They also criticized Thomson for pricing the same books higher in the United States than in Europe and elsewhere. The letter from the physics professors made the same points, while alluding to physics texts. Both letters were put together by CalPIRG staffers in association with concerned faculty. Several faculty members contacted yesterday said they had become increasingly concerned with skyrocketing prices for new editions where little content had changed. Boston Globe 4/8/05 Link

Posted by at 10:58 AM


Chuck Hamaker and Brad Spry, Google Scholar, Serials, March 2005. Excerpt: 'Google Scholar apparently made a decision to index fairly completely all scholarly, known or cooperating publisher-based sites, but to only partially index university web sites based on file format identifiers, i.e. PDF or PS files....Of the 24,000 items at The University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte that a Google site search identifies when ‘pdf’ is used as a search term, fewer than 500 are identified in Google Scholar. This does not bode well for inclusion of special collections and other content being created by libraries specifically for the web....If we understand correctly what it does index, it is time to get on with the much larger job of identifying more trusted scholarly sources. It has done a great job with the basic stuff, indexing 25% to 50% or more from many participating sites and obvious locations (such as arXiv) and identifying scholarly content through secondary means, i.e. citations and abstracting sources like PubMed and ACM. Between the first and third weeks of December, coverage tripled for many standard publishers. But inclusion based on a fairly limited primary source list and document format (or bibliographic citations) are just a beginning. Can it go beyond this to the rest of the scholarly resources on the web?' Open Access News 4/7/05

Posted by at 10:56 AM


The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) is looking for a few good ideas. The agency, which is dramatically overhauling its operations for the online world, put out a call this week seeking "innovative ideas from private sector vendors" for services relating to its current sales program operations. The goal, says Public Printer Bruce James, is "increase public awareness of Government publications by making them available in a commercial mainstream setting, expand distribution channels and use the latest technology, while achieving significant cost reductions." GPO is looking for suggestions from vendors regarding a new model for the publications sales operations on "a revenue sharing basis." In Fiscal Year 2004, GPO's sales program had a gross revenue of about $25 million. A Request For Information (RFI) was posted this week, and responses to GPO are due by May 4, 2005. For more information, including the full text of the RFI, visit Library Journal Academic News Wire: April 07, 2005

Posted by at 10:55 AM


The National Science Board has just released an important draft report titled "Long-Lived Digital Data Collections: Enabling Research and Education for the 21st Century" for public comment; comments are requested by May 1. You can find the report at: and information about how to submit comments is linked off the main National Science Board page at CNI-Announce 4/4/05

Posted by at 10:54 AM


"In its latest filing, Google described its business model as akin to that of a newspaper, with clearly delineated separation between its free search results and paid advertising," The Washington Post says. "But Google also characterized its evolution over the past year in more far-reaching terms, reflecting the breadth of expertise that it needs to continue to be a leader in the search-engine marketplace." "We began as a technology company and have evolved into a software, technology, Internet, advertising and media company all rolled into one," the company said. 4/6/05 Link

Posted by at 10:52 AM


Amazon has acquired BookSurge, a POD manufacturer based in Charleston, SC but with branch operations and relationships in a number of other countries. BookSurge provides services to both publishers and about 4,000 individual authors. Amazon vp of media products Greg Greeley says in a statement, "Our new relationship with BookSurge will provide Amazon customers an ever-expanding selection of titles that are not available through other channels." One knowledgeable observer speculates that Amazon may be interested in pairing on-demand manufacturing with its ever-growing library of print-ready digital book files, scanned for their Search Inside the Book program. In a less-publicized move in a related area, Amazon has apparently bought European-based Mobipocket, a PDA e-publishing competitor to Motricity (which owns what began as Palm-based ereading software and inventory). The move was disclosed as Franklin Electronic Publishers reported selling its shares in MobiPocket to Amazon for about $2.5 million, "in connection with Amazon's purchase of all MobiPocket's outstanding shares." Based in France, Mobipocket was founded in 2000 (as was BookSurge). Amazon had not responded to our query on the deal before publication. Publishers Lunch 4/4/05

Posted by at 10:48 AM