Monday, December 14, 2009

Two One Day Courses, Jan 19 & 20: Designing Universally Accessible Web Resources & Designing Accessible Web Forms

Jon Gunderson's (Illinois Center for Information Technology and Web Accessibility – iCITA) courses are always fun, engaging, and packed with good information. If you have the time (and the cash :) take a day to attend one of these workshops. If you are fairly new to accessibility (as it relates to web design), definitely attend the Designing Universally Accessible Web Resources course (Jan 19). If you feel pretty grounded in the basics of web accessibility, then you can skip to the Designing Accessible Web Forms session (Jan 20). Form design, in general, can be challenging. Making a well formatted, good looking and accessible web form is even more challenging, especially if you are trying to apply accessibility features to an existing form after the fact. Take this course and you'll never find yourself in that situation again. After one session with Jon, I guarantee you'll find yourself working the best practices of accessible design in from the ground up from now on, and loving the results. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Today's stumbled upon bit of tech goodness – Outlook 2007 and the hidden message headers

I have an on again off again relationship with MS Outlook. I used it for a while (roughly 2002-2004) only to ditch it after it suffered one too many unrecoverable data file corruption problems (admittedly at least partially due to my attempt to use Outlook+Offline Folders to have a single data file accessed from either my desktop or laptop, kept in sync). I switched to Eudora for a while, until they had a major version upgrade that totally broke the ability to use Eudora with Offline Folders. So I decided to try Outlook (2007) again when I started my position here at UIUC a few years ago. One minor annoyance I ran across was that I just couldn't find an easy way to get to the full email message headers (with all the relay stops a message takes to get to my machine, etc). Well, I stumbled across it today (I hadn't been frustrated enough to actually go hunting for the headers). Here's what I found (just in time for it to be changed in Office 14... woot…)

One way to get to email message headers in Outlook 2007 it is to right-click the message (not in the preview pane, in the list of emails) and select Message Options. Yes, message options: not details, more info, or something sensible, but "Message Options." There, you'll find the "Internet Headers" section, which contains all that occasionally useful information (for checking to see if something is SPAM, for instance). Here's a sample of what you'll find there (basically the path to your machine, from the sender, plus any extra header info any servers/services add along the way):

Return-Path: <m…@illinois.edu>

Received: from relay02.cites.uiuc.edu (relay02.cites.uiuc.edu [128.174.196.4])

by expms6.cites.uiuc.edu (MOS 3.10.3-GA)

with ESMTP id BXU48109;

Thu, 29 Oct 2009 08:48:00 -0500 (CDT)

Received: from pps.reinject (csc05.cites.uiuc.edu [128.174.4.219])

by relay02.cites.uiuc.edu (8.14.2/8.14.2) with ESMTP id n9TDm09e017714;

Thu, 29 Oct 2009 08:48:00 -0500 (CDT)

Received: from csc05.cites.uiuc.edu (localhost [127.0.0.1])

by pps.reinject (8.14.1/8.14.1) with SMTP id n9TDgVqO005351;

Thu, 29 Oct 2009 08:47:59 -0500

Received: from expredir4.cites.uiuc.edu (expredir4.cites.uiuc.edu [128.174.5.187])

by relay09.cites.uiuc.edu with ESMTP id n9TDlwtY021763;

Thu, 29 Oct 2009 08:47:59 -0500

Received: from [130.126.35.138] (libstfadm08.library.uiuc.edu [130.126.35.138])

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Thu, 29 Oct 2009 08:47:56 -0500 (CDT)

Message-ID: <4AE99D0C.90708@illinois.edu>

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 2009 08:47:56 -0500

From: K…y <m…@illinois.edu>

Reply-To: m…@illinois.edu

User-Agent: Thunderbird 2.0.0.23 (Windows/20090812)

MIME-Version: 1.0

To: E…s <e…2@illinois.edu>,…

j…@illinois.edu

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Some Kindle (and related) figures and quotes

I've been working on tracking down data regarding print book sales, e-book sales, e-reader sales, and related figures and quotes for an article I am working on. I thought I would go ahead and share the highlights of this information, in the hopes that someone else won't need to spend several days tracking down, reading, analyzing, and collocating this information again. :)

Wholesale E-book sales in US, 2008/2009


  • 2002: 5,794,180
  • 2003: 7,343,885
  • 2004: 9,619,503
  • 2005: 10,828,970
  • 2006: 20,000,000
  • 2007: 31,800,000
  • 2008: 53,500,000
  • 2009 (Jan-August): 94,000,000

The IDPF notes "The data… represent only trade eBook sales via wholesale channels. Retail numbers may be as much as double the above figures due to industry wholesale discount… The data… represent only data submitted from approx. 12 to 15 trade publishers… The data does not include library, educational or professional electronic sales… The numbers reflect the wholesale revenues of publishers."13

It's a bit hard to make comparisons between these sales numbers and overall sales, since collecting statistics on e-books is a relatively new practice that's still being worked out (not just for libraries, apparently :) Over the years, it's likely that e-book sales reporting will become more standardized and consistent. Still, even if some of the growth in numbers might be attributed to new data collection methods (and even sources) one can see a clear and growing trend in e-book sales. It's not a huge leap to at least partially attribute this new increase in sales (2008-2009) to the comparatively successful current wave of e-readers (in light of previous e-book reader "rounds"), most notably the Amazon Kindle. But just how "good" are these numbers? Take a look at the next section, but here's a quick preview to put things in comparison: The AAP estimates that August 2009 wholesale e-book sales in the US (the biggest single month for e-book sales ever) totaled $14.4 million, while print books, although only seeing a small month to month increase in sales, and still slightly lower than August of 2008, were at 1.55 billion (yes billion with a B). Even if we consider that there's as much as 50% underreporting on e-books in the industry right now (that's the AAPs own estimate) that means that in the US, August 2009 saw about $28.8 million in e-book sales, and 1.55 billion in print book sales. In August 2009, e-books only accounted for 1.88% ($28,800,000/$1,528,800,000) of the entire wholesale book market (e-book plus print book). Clearly, e-books have a long way to go to becoming ubiquitous- let alone becoming the dominant method of delivery - but what about a few years from now? Let's consider the significant growth in e-book sales from September to August, 189.1 percent, to be sustainable (which is questionable, an annual growth rate that nearly doubles sales will eventually start to taper off). Extrapolating that out (as an average annual growth rate of 189.1%), some time in 2013 annual e-book sales would be close to monthly print book sales (in the $1 billion+ range). Keep in mind that U.S. publishers had net sales of $25.0 billion in 2007, and a slightly less rosy 24.3 billion in 2008 (n.b. for the last six years, "the industry had a compound annual growth rate of 1.6%").16,18 Let's assume that print book sales remain flat, on average, for the foreseeable future (possible, since at some point increased sales of e-books, if they are on the way to becoming the dominant consumption format, will start to have a direct correlation with a decrease in print book sales). Given that, the earliest we are likely to hit the tipping point, where the default mode of consumption is electronic, will be sometime in late 2016 or early 2017. Of course, this very simple analysis doesn't account for a wide range of factors: is the growth in the e-book sales rate sustainable (if not, then it will take longer), is there a new development on the horizon that will place more digital consumption devices into the hand of more consumers (not just dedicated e-readers, but netbooks, smart phones, and any number of tiny devices, now that several new flexible/foldable screen technologies are popping up, removing the portable device size from being the limiting factor on screen size). Well, you get the picture. There are far too many "what ifs" and unknowns in the area of e-books to make any solid predictions. So, please keep that in mind as you read on; these numbers I am running are not predictions, merely extrapolations. I personally think 2016/2017 is a bit early for the start of e-books reign supreme.

Wholesale E-book Sales (in dollars), the "Rosy" extrapolation

2008 entry is actual data from the AAP, but 2009 on is all extrapolation based on an annual growth rate of 189.1%. Print book wholesale for the US in 2008 was $24,300,000,000.

  • 2008: 53,500,000
  • 2009: 101,168,500
  • 2010: 191,309,633
  • 2011: 336,132,814
  • 2012: 684,100,484
  • 2013: 1,293,634,014
  • 2014: 2,446,261,921
  • 2015: 4,625,881,293
  • 2016: 8,747,541,525
  • 2017: 16,541,601,023
  • 2018: 31,280,167,536
  • 2019: 59,150,796,811
  • 2020: 111,854,156,769

Book (print) Sales

"Book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) for the month of August increased by 0.9 percent at $1.55 billion and were up by 2.0 percent for the year… Audio Book sales posted a decrease of 12.5 percent in August with sales totaling $12.9 million; sales to-date decreased by 25.1 percent. E-books sales reached $14.4 million, reflecting a 189.1 percent increase for August and a 177.3 percent increase year to-date… The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry. AAP's more than 300 members include most of the major commercial publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies—small and large."20

Book (in general, not e-books) Market Share, 2007

  • Barnes & Noble 17%
  • Borders Books and Music 13%
  • Amazon.com 10%
  • Other 60% 14

"In March, 2008, The Association of American Publishers (AAP) released its annual estimate of total book sales in the United States. The report, which uses data from the Bureau of the Census as well as sales data from eighty-one publishers inclusive of all major book publishing media market holders, estimates that U.S. publishers had net sales of $24.3 billion in 2008, down from $25.0 billion in 2007, representing a 2.8% decrease. In the last six years the industry had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.6%... The Higher Education category, which includes sales of college textbooks, fared better. Total sales reached $3.8 billion this year up 2.7% on 2007. This brought the CAGR for college textbooks to 3.8%." 18

US Reading Habits

"Forty-five percent of Americans over the age of 13 read a book last year," 17 so the majority of Americans over the age of 13, 55% didn't read even one book in 2008. T_T

Kindle by the numbers (or as close as we can get)

Kindle titles available from Amazon: 240,0001

Kindle Cumulative Revenue Estimate by 2010 (Dollar value, all models - does not include revenue from e-book titles sales from amazon.com) : $1.2 Billion1

Total number of Kindles sold since release (all models): 500,000 (as of Feb 2009) 4

Kindle Quotes

"Amazon does not release sales figures for its Kindle or Kindle 2 reader." 1

"According to O'Reilly research, books were the fastest-growing category in Apple's App Store in the 12 weeks ending in March 1…. current leader… is Stanza… 7 million e-books downloads since launching in mid-2008… half of [the] 100,000 available titles are free… paid books account for about 25,000 to 40,000 downloads." 1

"Perhaps the Kindle is not the iPod of books, as it was once hailed…but… Amazon may now be settling for becoming 'the iTunes of Books… and it's hoping some customers will still buy a few kindles' even if they can read those books somewhere else"1

"'We want you to read your Kindle books on laptops and smartphones, anything with an installed base,'" Mr. Bezos said. He said he was not 'in principle' against making the works available on rival devices like Sony's, but was focused on platforms with 'large installed bases'."2

"Amazon charges $11.99 for most best-sellers, but textbooks and solid non-fiction titles can cost considerably more." 3

"Yesterday, the world's largest Internet retailer unveiled its upgraded Kindle 2, hoping to expand its ownership base, which is believed to number more than 500,000 users (Amazon has refused to publicly divulge the number of Kindles it has sold)… Sales of digital books are rising, but slowly. E-books represent only about 1 per cent of sales for most publishers, many of which are scrambling to find new distribution models and pricing schemes that will attract readers… Wholesale revenue from digital book sales in the United States has shot up 183 per cent over the past two years, from $4.9-million (U.S.) in the third quarter of 2006 to $13.9-million in the third quarter of 2008, according to data from the International Digital Publishing Forum. Analysts, however, suggest the retail market for e-books could be worth as much as $100-million." 4

"Although Bezos has declined to break out exact numbers, he suggested over the summer that Kindle-related sales have brought in 35 percent of his company's book-related revenue." 5

"According to the latest research from Bowker's PubTrack Consumer service, desktop and laptop computers were the preferred way for the public to read e-books through the first seven months of 2009, but their market share has been giving way to a host of new devices… Of e-book downloads through July, 40% were made to computers, down from 48% at the end of the first quarter. Quickly gaining in market share over the summer were downloads to the Kindle. This was especially true in July, when downloads to computers plunged, while downloads to the Kindle soared. As a result, in July, for the first time in PubTrack's monthly survey of consumers, Kindle downloads topped computers, accounting for 45% of all e-book downloads in the month."
[So the Kindle is doing great as far as market share within the e-book sector, basically pushing everybody else out of that market, but does that translate into moving print book consumers over to electronic consumption as well? Only time will tell.] 6

"Forrester Research recently raised its forecast for the electronic book sales and is now expecting 3 [million] e-readers to be sold in the US in 2009, up from a previous estimate of 2 [million], with 900,000 of the devices expected to be sold in November and December …Forrester said Kindle leads the category in the US with nearly 60 per cent of market share, followed by Sony with 35 per cent, and other devices accounting for about 5 per cent. It noted that US e-book sales were up 149 per cent for the year as of June, now accounting for $14 [million] in sales per month, according to the Association of American Publishers. Amazon has not made public sales figures for Kindle… Forrester is predicting that e-reader sales could increase to at least 6 [million] units in 2010, as increasing competition lowers prices" 7

"It is an experiment that has made back-to-school a little easier on the back: Amazon.com gave more than 200 college students its Kindle e-reading device this fall, loaded with digital versions of their textbooks. But some students miss the decidedly low-tech conveniences of paper: highlighting, flagging pages with sticky notes, and scribbling in the margins… Becerra tried typing notes on the Kindle's small keyboard, but when she went back to reread them she found they were laden with typos and didn't make sense. After a month, she says, she takes far fewer notes and relies on the Kindle's highlighter tool instead… When the Associated Press hit five test campuses to ask students how they felt about the Kindle, the responses were lukewarm… Madeline Kraizel, a freshman at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, has amassed three Kindle pages of bookmarks for her chemistry textbook. That is getting unwieldy, and she is not sure whether there is a better way to organize them… Other students struggled when professors had them read documents in PDF format, which does not show well on the Kindle. Users cannot zoom in or make notes on them, and diagrams sometimes get separated from notes explaining them… it can't be backlit, disappointing one student who wants to read during dark early-morning bus commutes." 8

"Analysts are bullish over the industry's prospects. Three million e-readers will be sold in the US this year, with the Kindle taking a 60 per cent market share and the Sony Reader 35 per cent, according to Sarah Rotman Epps of Forrester. 'We expect sales in 2010 to double, bringing cumulative sales of e-readers to 10 million by year end,' she said. Mr. Weiner said 2010 would be 'the year of the e-reader'" 9

"By all accounts, e-readers are set to have a breakout year. Slightly more than one million of them were sold globally in 2008, according to the market research firm iSuppli. The firm predicts that 5.2 million will be sold this year, more than half of them in North America, driven by the popularity and promotion of the Kindle, which is available only through Amazon's Web site... One challenge for the entire digital reading market is the price of these new devices. A recent report from Forrester Research suggests most consumers will buy a digital reading device only when they cost less than $100. One way this could ultimately happen is if wireless providers like Verizon subsidize the devices and sell them in their stores, as they do with the inexpensive laptops called netbooks. Verizon says it has no plans to do this, but analysts think that could conceivably change if e-readers like the iRex sell well. ''If this becomes a revenue stream for a company like Verizon, which actually gets paid for the bandwidth required to distribute content, then it is in Verizon's benefit to promote these devices and in many cases underwrite them,'' said Allen Weiner, an analyst at Gartner." 10

"E-book readers from Amazon and Sony have gotten lots of media attention, but a recent survey shows that consumers are not yet sold on the devices. More than 40% of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed by the NPD Group said they were "somewhat uninterested or "not interested at all" in buying an e-reader. Of those respondents, nearly 70% said they preferred the feel of an actual book… NPD's findings, released Thursday, were in line with comments from analysts recently interviewed by InformationWeek. Those industry observers said the biggest hurdle faced by e-reader makers was in moving mainstream consumers away from physical books. E-readers today appeal mostly to avid readers and people who travel regularly." 11

"The Kindle is expected to generate $310 million in revenue by the end of 2009. Barron's estimates that annual sales could reach $2 billion by 2012" 12

"However, some analysts also feel that the e-reader industry will need to make fairly substantial changes if it wants to collectively make its devices as ubiquitous as possible. In a September research note, Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps suggested that Amazon.com will need to ultimately lower its price point… The cost of the display component is high and sales volumes are still modest, yet consumers demand and expect ever-lower prices," Epps wrote. "The bottom line: E-reader product strategists will have to educate consumers and innovate to bring prices down. Even if they are entirely successful at both these feats, e-readers will never be mass-market devices like MP3 players."15

"At the start of the semester in August, the 18 students in his Human Experience course each got a Kindle DX, Amazon's newest e-reader, loaded with the syllabus, textbook and assigned readings. They'll return them when the semester ends…. 'There seems to be just a groundswell of support for these readers,' Herring said. 'It became clear this was indeed a way in which things were headed. We decided, "Why don't we get several of these and look at them?"' Winthrop spent $14,000, mostly from student fees, on the year-long test run, which put the school in the company of several universities around the country also experimenting with Kindles. About a month into the semester at Winthrop, the device has yet to garner many fans. 'There's got to be someone in here who doesn't hate it,' Herring said one morning. 'Where?' a student said. The class laughed…. In an article titled 'Kindles yet to woo University users,' the student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, quoted several students who 'found the Kindles disappointing and difficult to use.'"19

  1. MacMilan. "Amazon's Apple Deal: Kindle Cannibal?" Business Week (Online), March 5, 2009
  2. "Amazon's Kindle wireless reader to be available worldwide." The Irish Times, October 8, 2009
  3. Frith. "Eyestrain could singe Kindle early adopters" The Australian, October 13, 2009 Tuesday
  4. Hartley. "A new chapter for digital books; Amazon is hoping to light a fire under the e-book market with its Kindle 2 - a device that has no shortage of competition" The Globe and Mail, February 10, 2009
  5. "Amazon Slashes Prices for Kindle" eweek.com October 7, 2009
  6. Milliot. "Kindle Market Share on the Rise" Publishers Weekly. Aug 31, 2009. 256(35) p. 4
  7. Birchall& Bradshaw. "E-reader sales set to rise as Amazon cuts Kindle price." Financial Times. Oct 8, 2009 p. 16
  8. Mintz. "Students unready to trade texts for Kindle" The Boston Globe, Business p. 8, October 14, 2009
  9. Clark. "Amazon takes the Kindle global as e-readers soar; Device goes on sale in UK for first time but downloads to cost more than in US" The Independent (London) Business p. 42 October 8, 2009
  10. Stone. "Growing U.S. e-reader market gets a new player; New iRex and Best Buy join forces to challenge Kindle and Sony Reader" The International Herald Tribune, Finance p. 17, September 24, 2009.
  11. E-Book Readers Lack Appeal; Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader have gotten lots of media attention, but a survey shows that consumers are not yet sold on the devices." InformationWeek August 6, 2009
  12. Wired magazine, page 114 Sept. 2009
  13. http://www.idpf.org/doc_library/industrystats.htm
  14. "Leading Book Retailers, 2007." Market Share Reporter. Ed. Robert S. Lazich and Virgil L. Burton, III. 2009 ed. Detroit: Gale, 2009
  15. "Amazon Settles Kindle Suit But Will Other Issues Follow" eWeek.com, October 3, 2009
  16. "AAP Reports Book Sales Rose to $ 25 Billion in 2007" Association of American Publishers, March 31, 2008.
  17. "Nearly One in Two Americans Read a Book Last Year, According to Bowker's 2008 PubTrack Consumer Survey" Bowker, May 29, 2009.
  18. "AAP Reports Book Sales Reached $24.3 Billion in 2008" Association of American Publishers
  19. Cetrone. "Winthrop professor uses Kindle to spark new age of learning: But response to e-reader lukewarm" McClatchy - Tribune Business News. Oct 5, 2009.
  20. Book Publishing Sales Post Small Gains in August, The Association of American Publishers, October 21, 2009

When will the print book disappear?

Normally, I am one of the first guys in line (well, virtually, since I tend to shop online :) to buy the cool new electronic gadget de jour, and there's no denying the Kindle (especially the DX) fits that bill. This is especially true since I've been itching to try out an e-paper device since I first read about e-paper/e-ink in 2001.

Lately, I've heard a lot of talk about the Kindle being the harbinger of the end for print books, and wanted to toss in my two cents. I like the idea of e-paper in particular, the main selling point of the Kindle and similar third (or fourth depending on who you ask) generation e-readers over other portable devices like netbooks. However, the idea of a dedicated device for reading books just doesn't do it for me (other than a good old fashioned print book, of course – since that's a single use device too… :).

I think we're still years (possibly dozens of years) away from the tipping point of e-books versus print books (as far as market share of sales goes). I feel that there are many problems holding back the ascendancy of the e-book (especially in academic libraries/markets, for more on that keep an eye out for my upcoming article, "Why aren't E-Books Gaining More Ground in Academic Libraries"), but that the biggest problem holding back the move from print to electronic books among the general population right now is the lack of a ubiquitous device for reading electronic materials that people are generally happy with. But wait, that's just what the Kindle is, isn't it? Well, the Kindle works reasonably well for reading books (well, books that were designed for it, or at least in a format easily converted to the preferred Amazon format, PDFs are still a challenge), but what about checking email, or browsing the web, blogging, face-booking or IMing? I do all those things already, plus read e-texts, on both my laptop and netbook. Would I enjoy extended reading of static text from e-paper more (or one of the many other promising new display technologies)? Almost certainly! I often find myself tiring of craning my neck and jockeying for a good position to use my laptop or netbook to read on a plane. I envy the guy next to me who's enjoying reading a book or article on his Kindle. Reading in bed would also benefit from the use of a Kindle- I sprained my wrist trying to read the Mists of Avalon in bed in print format. An e-reader would have been great for that. However, I really don't want to lug yet another electronic device around everywhere I go. My laptop bag is already amusingly overcrowded with my laptop, its various peripherals and power supply, my PSP (and its stuff), my Ipod (and its stuff), my cell phone (ad nauseam)… I'm sure you get it by now. I like gadgets, I have a ton of them, and I have finally reached the point that I am saying "No More!" I also don't want to commit to yet another 2-3 year repurchasing cycle for a $300-$400 for a device that will really only work for reading books, when print books already suit that purpose well enough, and my other mobile devices can stand in for a dedicated e-reader in a pinch. After all, I am a librarian, and any of the books I really want to read are a short trip to my library or wait on the ILL list away, no $300-$400 membership fee required.

What we lack (we being the players in the book industry, from publishers to distributors, including libraries) is that truly magical multi-purpose ubiquitous device that will finally launch the e-book to the place of prominence we all know it will eventually achieve. I don't think that device will be a (mostly) single purpose device like a Kindle or any other dedicated e-reader. Not to say there isn't a place for dedicated e-readers. I think some insight can be gained by considering the mp3 player market. Even though the Big Boys in the industry have been seriously pushing feature creep into their MP3 devices, making them, arguably, now mini-computers (at least that's what Apple wants us to believe), there's clearly still a place for dedicated mp3 players (even Apple maintains production of the Shuffle, which is the ultimate single purpose mp3 player). What the e-book market needs is a device that comfortably meets multiple information and entertainment needs of users, at a price they are willing to pay. The major limiting factor right now on mobile devices in general is the display technology. E-paper is great for static text (and low power consumption), but (right now) terrible for general purpose use as a laptop/cell phone screen (grayscale only right now, with a ridiculously limited number of shades of grey, and absolutely atrocious screen refresh rates, compared to other display technologies). Once there's a way to do both – display static text in a way that's pleasant for extended reading (and consumes very little power) as well as to display full color dynamic content (possibly even including two display types on a single device) at a reasonable price point, I think we'll see the sudden and massive shift to e-consumption that we've all been waiting for. But even then, I think there'll be a fairly long, slow dwindling of print books, with them still representing a fairly significant chunk of publications/sales for several decades to come (at least as significant as the current <2% of sales that e-books make up of the entire book market).


FYI, here's a device I'd love to see (are you listening Amazon, Sony, Lenovo- anyone really!). My ideal netbook/e-reader is pretty simple. Take a modest netbook (at the $300 price point), make some minor hardware adjustments internally (maybe another $50/netbook) and slap a piece of e-paper on the top of the netbook lid (so when it's closed, the lid shows e-paper, but when it's open, you see a standard netbook LCD screen), maybe another $100. And then, bam, you have the netbook/e-reader hybrid I've been dreaming of for about $450. It can still do everything my netbook could, but when I just want to engage in extended reading (and not note taking or some other form of content creation, rather than consumption) I simply pull up my item (maybe even in a special app, but I'd prefer the transition to be seamless) close my lid, and the netbook switches from LCD display to e-paper. At the same time, the netbook goes in to low-power/e-reader mode. Now I get _all_ the benefits that the Kindle (or any other e-reader) currently offers, but suffer from none of the multi-tasking anemic drawbacks of a dedicated e-reader.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Testing google wave > blogger using madoqua (blog-bot@appspot.com)

Just a really quick test. I've only used wave for, oh, a total of maybe 60 minutes so far, but this was the killer feature (for me) of the product demo.
Hmm, looks like you may need to be singed in to a google account, at least, to see this wave (below). More likely,m you'd need to be a participant in the wave. Can anyone (besides those in the wave) signed in with a googel account read this? I am also going to go mark the wave as public, which is the most likely missing bit (but I hope that also means I can mark portions of a wave, or wave participants, as private)...

Ack, currently, it turns out, you must have a google wave account in order to see the madoqua output. This is by design it seems, "Even if you make the wave itself public and put it on a web page, it isstill inaccessible to people who do not have a Wave ID—that is, didn'tget into the Wave preview." The Complete Guide to Google Wave - Wave Bots

And Bloggy, my favorite and star of the hour+ google wave video, can't help just yet.Bloggy - blog-wave@appspot.com - Will make the wave public when Bloggy is added to a wave, and embed the wave at http://blog-wave.appspot.com/[username] ONLY WORKS IN DEVELOPER SANDOX



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

[Wave] Barry Bailey is my hero


I'm getting my first chance to test Google Wave this week, thanks to Barry Bailey's invite. Barry, I owe you one super huge favor, any time, so don't hesitate to ask. :)

I'm pretty swamped this week, but I'll take some times to really kick the tires this weekend. I just began a playback on a LITA wave discussing the possible uses of wave for libraries. [BTW, this next bit is a copy of something I just posted to the LITA Google Wave Group, for those not yet lucky enough to be in on the wave.] A great deal of the conversation on the wave (not just on the LITA wave, out in the blogosphere in general) seems to be focused on comparing wave to synchronous communication tools like IM and social networking sites. But my hope for wave is that, although it might be leveraged for that, the real power stems from the ability to foster richer a asynchronous communication, where discussion about a topic in a wave can be easily crafted- using branches of the wave, and special markup which I've only seen on the demo, but will try soon- to produce publically viewable living document derivatives of a wave automatically. Think about all those long, all-too-frequent meetings we all attend where we spend hours discussing a new policy (or policy change) and then task someone, at the end of the multiple meetings and discussions, to take all the discussion and craft a policy from it. At yet another meeting, the proposed policy is reviewed, amendments are suggested, more work is done, etc. Finally, usually weeks after the major decisions have been made, the policy gets posted somewhere. Now, think about an online, asynchronous approach to the same policy making conversation. The discussion, and the exact language from that discussion, could be automatically updating a publically viewable branch of the wave (posted to a public blog, wiki, web site or other document management system/space). Add to that that the feedback that's received on the public wave branch (like on a blog or wiki comment) feeds back into into the wave discussion (automatically), where the policy makers can immediately discuss the comment, come to consensus, and almost immediately amend the policy/document. I see Google Wave as a way to make all my group work get addressed more quickly and responsively, while also reducing the amount of time it takes to produce public information from what are now (mostly) private, largely undocumented conversations.

I jumped out to search for how to link to a Google Wave (so those of you with wave accounts can join in on some of the waves I plan to start soon) and found a good article by Daniel Tenner, "What problems does Google Wave solve- A matter of perspective" that echoes my own feelings about wave- that people don't quite know what they should use it for yet.

Monday, October 19, 2009

USA Today now includes e-books on its Best Sellers listings

See: USA Today Best Selling Book Database

They are getting data directly from Amazon regarding sales of e-books- shocking, since Amazon has been so tight lipped about Kindle& eBooks sales in general. A quick look today showed no E-books in the list of the top 150 books… hmm. So, how are things really going Amazon? :P

I'm not the only one suspicious of Amazon (an e-book proponents in general) playing a bit of a shell game here. See Motoko Rich's blog post 'Lost Symbol' Also a Big Hit on Kindle, But How Big? In particular, this bit is very telling "But it seems that the breathless reception of Amazon's news is a little overblown. Although Knopf Doubleday, which printed 5 million hardcover copies of "The Lost Symbol," has declined to say what proportion of the more 1 one million copies of hardcover and e-book editions it sold on the first day of the book's release were actually in digital form, a person familiar with the sales figures said far less than 5 percent were electronic book editions."

Amazon admits it was wrong to delete e-books, pays out (a tiny bit)

While doing some research today on the Kindle, I came across this tidbit. I was all wrapped up in the Kindle 1984 deletion debacle, and then it fell off my radar (as do many things as they fall into the litigation phase). Apparently, Amazon agreed to pay out $150,000 for the class action lawsuit brought against them ("Amazon settles with student," Los Angeles Times October 2, 2009). Seems like they got off way to easy to me…

A quick update…

And even though they pay out on this suit, they plan to keep doing this in the future (but they'll just be more clear about it). Well that just sucks…

"As part of the settlement, Amazon.com stated that it would retain the right to remotely delete works from its users' libraries under specific circumstances" ("Amazon Slashes Prices for Kindle" eweek.com October 7, 2009)

"As noted by the court, Amazon.com agreed to either restore copies of Orwell's magnum opus to those whose copies were deleted in July, or alternatively offer a $30 check or Amazon.com gift card. 'Those who elect to receive the previously purchased Subject Work will have any and all annotations or notes made prior to removal of the Subject Work restored automatically,' court documents read--a salient point, considering that the deletion of accompanying notes was one of the motivations for the plaintiffs pressing their lawsuit in the first place." ("Amazon Settles Kindle Suit But Will Other Issues Follow" eWeek.com October 3, 2009)

First thoughts on: Morris, Issues in Vendor/Library Relations – Buying Ebooks: Does Workflow Work? Part I & II

Against the Grain 20.4 & 20.6 (2008): p30-34 & p. 76-77. doi: (N/A, try the publisher web site part I , publisher web site part II) (University of Illinois Access, part I, University of Illinois Access, part II)

Why should you read this:

They're both very brief and contain some useful tidbits.

In brief:

Part I largely catalogues the various people with a stake in selecting eBook vendors, and perceived (or actual) pitfalls associated with acquiring e-books.

Interesting quotes and my thoughts:

Part I

"A good relationship with a distributor who is facilitating but not hosting eBooks will not protect the library from issues arising at the eBook source. Furthermore, since distribution arrangements can fall apart over time, basing the decision to limit the playing field to eBook aggregators available within the library's print vendor database may also prove to be misguided and result in regrets down the line." Part I, p. 87

"Fortunately, technology has progressed to a point that with a little bit of effort, print and eBook purchasing can be coordinate even when there are multiple suppliers involved" Part 1, p. 87

Part II

"Smart libraries will choose to work with companies that are making smart business decisions now." part II, p. 77.

"The more platforms, the more likely a researcher will miss useful Ebooks." Part II, p. 77.

"Piracy does happen, and anyone hosting eBooks that does not take that seriously will have trouble attracting and keeping publishers." Part II, p.77

Let's hope this is slowly becoming less true. Certainly work by Springer and Morgan & Claypool (who use no software at all to restrict use) seems to indicate that you can host a vibrant collections of e-books with DMR based "controls" for piracy, etc. and still attract quality content, and make a profit (in Springer's case, more profit, not less, when they made the move to DRM free content)." Part II, p.77

"Libraries will also want to choose an eBook vendor that regularly improves the functionality of its platform to keep up with patron expectations." Part II, p.77

"Ease of selection and acquisition is an important factor for anything a library buys, or course- but only once the library has first made the right decisions about what it is that's being selected and acquired." Part II, p.7

First thoughts on: Lorbeer & Mitchell, eBooks in Academic Health Science Libraries

Against the Grain 20.5 (2008): p30-34. doi: (N/A, try the publisher web site) (University of Illinois Access)

Why should you read this:

A really quick read. Although it isn't research based- more of a "what we're doing here" piece - there are a few key quotes that are worth a look.

In brief:

Information about the University of Alabama School Of Medicine's move into/towards e-books is provided.

Interesting quotes and my thoughts:

"We found that there was a large portion of the… reading list that the Library was unable to purchase as eBooks. In many cases, publishers either have not digitized the content or the pricing model was just too rigid. Though librarians identified comparable titles that were offered as eBooks, course instructors were not willing to replace these titles. A majority of the core medical and nursing textbooks are still trapped inside bundled eBook platforms or copyright constraints" p. 32

Are you listening academic publishers and aggregators? I hear about, and read about, this problem all the time. We librarians want to give you our money. We want your content. We want (well, many of us :P ) the e-book revolution to (finally) happen. But you need to be reasonable and not expect to be able to enforce a purchasing model that doesn't allow for or punishes a la carte purchases. Bundling, sure, that's fine in general, but you must offer every title as an individual purchase!

"Investing in vendor supplied MARC records, a federated search engine, and Web 2.0 social applications like LibraryThing and Shelfari are just some of the ways in which the library can point users towards content." p. 32

"Despite efforts to educate faculty and students, there is still confusion regarding the concurrent seat model that almost every eBook publisher uses… most users' expectations about how platforms should operate are generally based on their experience with electronic journals and comprehensive literature databases. Explaining to faculty and students why publishers offer unlimited access to journal articles but only limited access to books and book chapters is futile" p. 32

Amen to that! And there shouldn't be _any_ confusion because the distinction between publication type and consumption restrictions doesn't exist for our users. Online stuff is online stuff, with the possible caveat that "stuff from the library" can generally be expected to be of a higher quality. If they find a link to something they want, only to get a (usually byzantine, to them) error message about "concurrent seating" they just assume that the resource is
broken, like a specialized version of a 404 error. Get with it publishers/vendors. Jump on the Springer/Morgan & Claypool bandwagon. Unlimited concurrent access to all materials, be they articles or chapters!

"…several inconsistencies with the way publishers digitize and sell eBook content… remain in the way… DRM technologies prevent students from downloading and printing the entire chapter of an eBook." p.34

First thoughts on: Carlock & Perry, Exploring faculty experiences with e-books: a focus group

Library Hi Tech 26.2 (2008): p244-254. doi: 10.1108/07378830810880342 (University of Illinois Access)

Why should you read this: It's hard for me not to recommend this one, because the final concluding point of the article is one that resonates so completely with me. This article is very well written, easy to read, and can be knocked out in 10-20 minutes. However, there isn't much new data contained here (although, as the author's note, their approach to getting the data is different from previous research). The information they've culled from the focus group does largely validate the findings of a great deal of the research on e-book use to date (generally survey based). If you're trying to put together a foundational set of materials to get up to speed on e-books, this probably isn't one of the items you should include. But if you have a few minutes, then go for it!

In brief

"In the spring of 2007, Arizona State University Libraries [Carnegie Foundation Research I institution, 65,000 students] held a [90 minute p. 249] focus group of [6] selected faculty [represent[ing] the following fields: political science, history, graphic design, industrial design, marketing, and bioengineering… including assistant, associate and full professors p. 249] to discover their perceptions and use of electronic books (e-books) in their research and teaching… Major themes explored were: use of e-books as textbooks; use of e-books for personal research; comparison between e-books and print; disciplinary differences in perceptions of e-books; and motivators for future use... Overall, the focus group revealed that faculty had generally unsatisfactory experiences in using e-books in their research and teaching owing to the unreliability of access, lack of manipulability, and the steep learning curve of the various interfaces. However, most faculty agreed that e-books would be a very viable and useful alternative if these issues were resolved." p.244 " ASU Libraries have been aggressively collecting electronic books (e-books) since 2000 from several vendors, including NetLibrary, MyiLibrary, Ebrary, Safari, Knovel, and STAT!Ref, as well as from other providers that include e-books in their electronic collections. As of December 2006, the libraries provided access to over 30,000 electronic books." p.245 [My note, ASU looks to have a print collection of about 4.2 million volumes, so e-books represent about 0.7% of the entire print+electronic book collection]

Interesting quotes and my thoughts:

From the lit review section of the article:

"Faculty have identified several disadvantages, weaknesses and uncertainties about e-books. Cox (2004) finds that faculty are least sure about downloading, printing, bookmarking, and emailing content, and the faculty at the Indian Institute of Science state that the most common reason (22 percent) they do not use e-books is that they are hard to read and browse (Anuradha and Usha, 2006). Other disadvantages include eye strain due to reading online and the difficulty of navigating an online book (Levine-Clark, 2006). Responding to the question of what would make e-book usage more suitable, faculty reported that having a larger collection of e-books (55.8 percent), the ability to download (52.4 percent), the ability to print and copy with fewer restrictions (49.9 percent), would make e-books more attractive (Ebrary, 2007)." p. 247

" A focus group of undergraduate midwifery students conducted after instruction on how to access e-books found that students saw more disadvantages than advantages with e-books. The primary disadvantages cited were accessibility issues (one user at a time per book), navigation and limited number of titles (Appleton, 2004)." p.248

From their focus group research:

"contracting a third party to conduct the focus group would ensure a more neutral session and prevent library staff from influencing the course of the focus group or trying to teach or inform during the session. To this end, ASU Libraries enlisted the Institute for Social Sciences Research (ISSR), an ASU-based organization, to recruit participants and moderate the focus group at their facility." p.248

The questions asked:

  1. How familiar, if at all, are you with e-books?
  2. What do you know about them?
  3. Have you used them in your classes? If so . . . What did you think of them?
  4. How often do you use them?
  5. What was student input about them?
  6. How likely are you to use them in the fall semester? If not, why not?
  7. Do you use e-books as textbooks? If not, why not? If not, have you ever considered using them? If not, why not?
  8. Have you personally used e-books in your research? If so, how often? Describe your experience with them. If not, why not?
  9. How would you find out if a book is available as an e-book?
  10. Let us say you are using a textbook in class. The textbook is available in print and as an e-book. Which would you assign? Would you give students the option to choose? Why or why not?
  11. Would the subject matter of the book affect your decision? If so, why?
  12. Would you have any concerns about choosing an e-book? If so, what are your concerns?
  13. What about a book that is not a textbook? Do you think students prefer print or e-books?
  14. Do you see any advantages to using print rather than e-books? If so, what are the advantages? What about disadvantages?
  15. Do you see any advantages to using e-books rather than print books?
  16. Would you use e-books any differently than you use print books? In what ways? Why?
  17. What kind of information would you want about e-books before you decided to use them or use them more frequently?
  18. If you have not tried them before, what could the library do to encourage you to try them?

"Our first question was a general inquiry into the participants' familiarity with e-books. The participants expressed mostly negative responses… 'I think it's the technical difficulties of trying to deal with it that put me off of trying to use that type of materials in class'. Another mentioned that using e-books was 'very tedious, and it wasn't worth the time'" p. 249

"one of the primary concerns with using e-books as textbooks was the question of reliability… you could never be certain whether the students could get into the e-book… The industrial design professor tried to avoid this concern by teaching the students how to access the e-book at the start of class, but still received complaints from the students about the difficulties of using e-books. She said that the limitations imposed on viewing e-books are particularly frustrating: 'It will only let you look at a certain percentage of pages at a time and then your time is up and you have to login [after] another 24 hours… That, to me, is mind-boggling, because it's being deliberately built into the system and that it's the fallacy of the previous system" [referring to print books]." p. 250

"'With a live book . . . you can photocopy the pages that you need . . . and you don't have the ability to do that with an e-book.'" p. 251

" Some professors use e-books to help generate interest in print books amongst their students, 'I've often seen students . . . they look at it online . . . a couple weeks later you see they've gone out and bought it to add to their personal collection.'" p. 251

"Several of the professors indicated an interest in saving their students some money, and would be more likely to use e-books if offered as a less expensive alternative to textbooks." p. 252

"When asked what would make them more interested in using e-books, most faculty talked about looking past the print equivalent: "A lot of e-books are directly scanned from the actual book itself so they aren't taking advantage of the fact that it's online and can be hyper-linked . . . it should be interlinked and hyper-linked and referenced to other materials that are out there." Additionally, professors wanted… the same freedoms allowed by print books: the ability to write notes, link to related items or citations, highlight passages, and copy and paste from the text." p. 252

"Most professors agreed that the primary factor that would increase their interest and use in e-books would be the ability to trust that the e-book would be reliable and accessible to themselves and their students, whenever they needed it. Their current experiences have not given them cause to believe that this is currently the case." p. 252

"… when speaking about the limitations of e-books, such as having to "check-out" an e-book in NetLibrary or downloading specific software for Ebrary's proprietary reader. Faculty were surprised to learn from the moderator that the e-book vendors rather than the library set these limitations." p. 253

"while faculty are open to the concept of using e-books, their experiences have not been positive. The limitations of e-book accessibility and practical use cannot be overlooked at this time. Faculty are especially cautious about using them as textbooks or for course readings… believing that the technology is too unreliable, which has been proven by their own experiences… Were these issues resolved, particularly with respect to accessibility and interactivity, most faculty would be willing to use them." p. 253

"academic librarians have a responsibility to advocate the needs of their users to e-book vendors to consider when planning future product development. Without the input of libraries, e-book vendors' primary clientele, there is no guarantee that the necessary improvements in usability, accessibility, and interactivity would ever be made." p. 253

Here, here! I think perhaps I have found a few new founding members to help craft my Academic Library E-book Manifesto. :)

First thoughts on: Jamali, Nocholas & Rowlands, Scholarly e-books, the views of 16,000 academics

Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives 61.1 (2009): p33-27. doi: 10.1108/00012530910932276 (University of Illinois Access)

Why should you read this:

The folks working on this study (multiple publications spanning several years) really are on the ball, both in terms of the background reading/lit cited, as well as the focus of their research. If you are at all interested in the scholarly use of e-books, you must read this article. And, just FYI, I don't just say that about every article from these authors or this particular study. :)

In brief:

This study is part of the "JISC National E-Books Observatory project… a… project in which over 120 UK universities receive two years free access to course reading materials in e-book form… publishers were paid £600,000 for 36 textbooks for a period of two years. The books were supplied on two platforms: Wolters Kluwer Health and MyiLibrary." p. 34 This study "aims to find out about the perspective of students and academics… on e-books. The paper provides an analysis of two open-ended questions about e-books… 'In your opinion, what were the biggest advantages that e-books offered compared with a printed book?' and 'Is there anything that you want to add regarding course texts, print or electronic, or about your university library?'…conducted between 18 January and 1 March 2008… response from more than 20,000 academic staff and students; 16,000 free-text responses. The study discloses… online access along with searchability was the biggest advantage of e-books… however, e-books have yet to become more student-friendly by improving features such as printing and screenreading." p.33 & p36

Interesting quotes and my thoughts:

"E-book publishing has been growing rapidly and the International Digital Publishing Forum (Industry eBook Sales Statistics, 2005) reports a 23 per cent increase in e-book revenues in 2005 compared to 2004 and a 20 per cent increase in e-book titles published year-on-year." p. 33

Ahh, IDPF, how you love to toss around some numbers to show that "the e-book era is right around the corner, no, this time for real!" :P Yes, e-book sales have been growing at a fairly rapid pace when compared only to previous e-book sales. But when set amidst total book sale revenue (e-book and print combined or contrasted) to date we have yet to see e-books account for even a double digit % of the share or revenue for book sales (that's tight, even with the Kindle out there, last years overall revenue for book sales turned up e-books at <2% of the revenue share). But when you only account for about 1% of the industry (about what estimates peg e-books sales at right now, plus or minus a few tenths of a percent), even with annual average growth of 25% (good numbers for growth for any industry), that it would take 17-18 years for e-books to hit the tipping point, gaining more than 50% market share and making printed books use the minority delivery mechanism for books. Now, that's not to say I don't see the writing on the wall, and that change is coming, but I think some key elements are missing from (1) the hardware end of things (device ubiquity and appropriateness for reading books) as well as vendor/distribution/functionality issues (see my forthcoming article about e-books and upcoming blog post on the Kindle for more details).

"The fact that 89.1 per cent of our respondents managed to get to the end of a quite long and complex questionnaire is a clear indication of the level of interest within the academy in e-books. We received responses from 123 universities before the questionnaire was switched off." p. 35-36

"The results of the quantitative part of the survey were analyzed and published elsewhere (Nicholas et al., 2008); presented here are the findings of two open-ended questions, which were included in the survey… While the questionnaire was open to both staff and students the respondents to these two questions were almost wholly students." p. 36

"Clearly the main attraction is that e-books are more accessible than print books, meaning that users can get at them wherever they are and at whatever time they like. This reason accounts for more than 52 per cent of the advantages mentioned… Of the online access comments, 1,000 specifically cited the fact that e-books can be accessed from a distance and that the user does not have to travel to the library in order to use them… About 500 comments were related to availability – 24/7 access to e-books " p. 36

One of the comments the authors choose to include for this section (out of 3 examples) was particularly interesting to me, "It's always available – if you have a web connection." p. 37

"The greater retrieval opportunities provided by e-books were the second most mentioned characteristic (13.2 per cent). This rises to 15.4 per cent if we include navigation." p.37

"Cost was the only other advantage to reach double figures (10.8 per cent). All comments related to… e-books being free and cheaper. Clearly there is confusion here in the minds of students of what constitutes free. Some illustrative comments follow: A lot of the e-books are free of charge. Cheaper than buying the book. Didn't have to buy it." p. 37

This is very interesting, since the books they are "comparing" these too are library print book collections, both of which are "free" at the point of use to them. If you discount this category (because there' a lot of confusion on this aspect among respondents) then there are really only two far-reaching reasons that are widely felt to be the strengths of e-books- availability and searchability. This needs to be considered in light of the next finding…

"Portability… Portable is not a word you would associate with e-books but quite a few (5.3 per cent) mentioned this quality. They were said to be "lighter" than printed books and they did not have to be carried around. Here some students clearly have downloadable e-books in the form of PDF in mind while none of the e-textbooks provided through the project were downloadable. Some illustrative comments follow: Easier to carry around – on ipod. No weight. Portability - I can take a lot of books on a single computer, memory card, external hard drive. Portable, we do not have to carry big books from one place to another, useful for international students." p. 38

So either the respondents were thinking about other e-books/e-documents they do this with (download/ save to a device), found ways to circumvent the platform based restrictions on downloading these books (I know I've done that, with NetLibrary materials in particular), or assumed they would be able to do that, but hadn't tried before they took the survey. My money is on the last category. I feel that most web users assume there is some mechanism whereby they can save web content for later offline viewing (and it really sticks in my craw that more e-book vendors still refuse to facilitate this type of use).

"The biggest disadvantage by far was thought to be the difficulties of reading from the screen. About 366 (7.6 per cent) respondents complained about the difficulty of screenreading." p. 41

"There are many users who would prefer hard copies to e-books. About six per cent of the respondents stated that they preferred hard copy books in normal situations." p. 41

"According to the responses there seems to be a lack of activities for promoting e-books on the librarians' side. About 195 (4.05 per cent) comments indicated the need for better promotion of e-books among students and lecturers. 'Better communication between course leaders and library staff, better flagging of e-resources, both on library sites and in course handouts needed in order that their use is maximized… I don't really know anything about electronic sources, so it would be better if the librarians were more forthcoming in telling the students about them.'" p. 42

"There was also a lack of knowledge about how to access and use e-books and e-resources and this highlights the need for instructions and the improvement of information literacy programmes at universities: 'I could do with a course on how to access these things as I am not very technically minded I don't know how to access the e-books… I don't think that there is enough emphasis on lecturers and tutors explaining to students HOW to use all the various applications in the library. I had to teach myself about these, a seminar for all those interested might be of help.'" p. 41

Ah, here we are again. Getting access to e-books, and then once you have it, navigating them, still remains a challenge to some. And why is that? Many of my colleagues blame themselves ("we're not doing enough to teach people about e-books and how to use them") but I personally blame terrible, atrocious user-interface design from the vendors themselves. When was the last time you had to teach a university student the basics of how to use a web browsers and search engine (basics here, not best practices :P )? I know I can only dimly remember that time. And why is it that students can figure out the web, including library access to e-journals, but not w-books? I propose that it is because the access mechanisms to e-books are horrid. Okay, the library catalog/major access mechanism to library materials shares a little of the blame here, but I point my finger mostly at the actual platforms e-books are being provided on. Usually for "good" reasons (DRM , copyright, keep your dirty pirate student mitts off our content reasons) the interfaces themselves attempt to stop users from accessing and manipulating content in ways they are familiar with. Vendors and publisher, this message is rfor you: stop it! Okay, a quick side not to Springer and Morgan & Claypool- disregard my last comment, you are already doing things right (well, at least far better than the rest of the industry).

"Printing problems… Students wanted to be able to print part of the e-books they read, whether to read them at their convenience or highlight and annotate them. About 60 (1.3 per cent) respondents complained (a relatively small number it has to be said) about problems with printing, either they did not allow this or there were restrictions. Also about 18 (0.37 per cent) respondents expressed that they wanted to be able to print sections of e-books easily." this quote in particular is representative, in my experience, of one of the biggest gripes about e-books "E-books are useful. My main gripe with them is the way in which you print them off. I have tried to print out whole chapters and cannot do this, I do not know why. Instead I have had to print out groups of pages and then put them together to form the chapter. This is annoying and makes accessing e books more tedious and time consuming that it otherwise might be. However, on the whole I think they are a useful addition to hard copy books" p.43

I wonder if more students would have reported problems with this if they had had more e-books to use. I rarely found myself needing to quote from a core course text-book. Given that these limited (36) books were core text-books, I doubt many users tried to copy/paste or print much of the book. I know when I was an undergrad student I was particularly likely to skim/speed-read the core texts for a course- they were too often just poorly written, dry, and ponderous. On the other hand, when I was reading my own supplementary materials (that I selected to address a topic I was working on for a course project) that was when I engaged in extensive close/deep reading, note-taking, highlighting, copying, etc. I would love to see a follow-up to this study, if the data is available, on how often users actually engaged the features (or triggered the limitations) on copy/paste and printing for these 36 books/two platforms. My guess is not many, given how many students (inaccurately) reported that one great feature of these books was the ability to store them on their portable devices (something not enabled/allowed by either platform).

"A supplement not a substitute… About 67 (1.4 per cent) comments were in some way related to the fact that e-books and printed books should co-exist. Users found different and supplementary applications for e-books and hard copy and wanted to benefit from both. Students do not want to see an exclusivity of formats. There was also concern that some university libraries considered e-books a good alternative or substitute and therefore replaced printed books with e-books. Some were concerned that the move towards the provision of more e-books means cutting the number of hard copy books in libraries." p.44

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reading a new (to me) textbook on Qualitative Data: Interpreting Qualitative Data by Silverman

Big thanks to the tireless efforts of David Vess (who reads, by my estimate, about 3 multiplujillion pages a day) who suggested this book to me (well, Camilla, who I poached it from :). The ISBN is 9781412922456. I'll be diving in this weekend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Looking for a good desktop replacement laptop…

I am in the market for a good "desktop replacement" laptop. It needs to handle capturing live video (from a Canon GL2) and do real time conversion to multiple formats for streaming (I haven't picked the software for that yet). I'm considering this Lenovo W700 configuration right now... any suggestions for something better (within reason of course- this one already is close to breaking the bank) or reasons to avoid this one? Reviews of the W700 model look good...

1:20 PM Update: Several friends have suggested I consider the Macbook Pro, so I am. Here are the issues I am dealing with on the Mac end right now:

There are some hardware elements you can't get in a MBP right now (like a quad core processor) and might not be able to get for another 6-8 months. I also can't find an option to configure a MBP with a primary/OS/application SSD hard drive as an SSD, and a secondary disk based "big" storage drive. I don't have as many options for upgrading the memory as I'd like. I'd like some options for a single DIMM at 4 gigs. I can only seem to choose from two 2-DIMM options, 4 or 8 gigs, with 8 adding a whopping $1,000 to the price. And finally, but probably most importantly, I want to run Morae on this laptop. Right now that's not particularly straightforward or convenient on a Mac. Due diligence, though… I did dial up the most comparable MBP to the Lenovo I could, and this is my final bone: for less impressive hardware, they want >$1000 more. The Lenovo clocks in at 3247 with a protection plan, the MBP at 4348 for the comporable (but not quite) build. I posted a comparable MacBook Pro configuration.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Google Wave Invite

Anyone have a Google Wave invite they'd be willing to send me? I'd appreciate it enormously! :) robertslater@gmail.com

Monday, October 5, 2009

AT&T 3G service finally available in Urbana-Champaign

Ongoing promises, reiterated for years, to roll out AT&T 3G coverage to Champaign-Urbana (as recently as march 23, 2009 in this post, AT&T Investment in 2009 Will Add More Than 40 New Cell Sites throughout Illinois) have finally been fulfilled (at least it looks that way). Friends have been reporting to me that as early as last Monday they'd been waking up and turning on their iPhones to see a pleasant and (generally) unexpected surprise- their s all started indicating they had a 3G connection! It is, perhaps, a bit troubling that this information isn't yet listed on the Cities Supporting AT&T 3G/Mobile Broadband page yet, but that's probably coming soon. At least it shows up as 3G coverage available for a huge bit of land (all of Champaign Urbana, plus some) on the AT&T Coverage Viewer.

Early reports are that access speeds seem comparable to and maybe even slightly better than 3G service they've used in other cities.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Illinois Web Accessibility Conference and Expo: Session 3 – Content Management Systems 1

Speaker: Christian Johansen (Plone, open source on python), Penn State University

Christian is from Weblion. Most of their work now is with content management systems. There are very active with open source communities, most notably on plone.org (and team members serve in key roles on Plone committees)

A CMS incorporates easy publishing + a workflow = explosion of content.

There are over 700 CMS systems out there right now. Most are open source. But technology doesn't matter any more. What really mater is user orientation [training?].

Their goal isn't to create/modify something for themselves, but to integrate their accessibility enhancements into projects core packages (update Drupal templates, add ARIA support) To get the maximum effect make sure to roll it in to the main distribution, not in silos in your own institution. Acceptance of your code is based on meritocracy, including an official review structure/organization.

When choosing a CMS, take the requirements from you clients and shelf them. Instead, focus on community health and vitality behind the project. Is leadership shared? Are new members helped/welcome? What is the size of that community (that is likely the best indicator).

Early on they couldn't hire any Python programmers, so they had to hire and then train their own people, a dubious proposition then, but that has likely paid for itself now (Plone work).

Your role is to make your agenda transparent. If you are competent, consistent, and collegial, you will accrue influence that can allow your requirements to be folded in to full distributions.

Most open source development operates around the bug tracking and ticketing system. You submit your enhancement as a ticket, which is reviewed by the community, accepted or rejected. If accepted, it goes in to the development and testing phase, then release in beta form (then feedback for code changes).

Christian demos the ticket process for a Plone requested change, using some screen shots.

Finally: Your participation in open source communities improves accessibility.

Speaker: Brandon Bowersox (Drupal, open source PHP) OJC technologies from Urbana.

He's done a great deal of work working for the IOWA Department for the Blind. Many of their changes are being rolled in to the Drupal 7 release about to e rolled out in early 2010.

The top layer of accessibility is the content itself – are users prompted to add accessible features when they upload/create content. Do images prompt for alt text? Are users promopted to check external sites they link to.

Then you have the structure- aesthetics, page layout, templates, themes, navigation, search, color, etc.

The lowest layer is the CMS/LMS: the editing and admin tools that come with the product, WYSIWYG editor, etc.

Web design from start to finish:

  1. Team selection- Include someone from the campus accessibility community- even if that's just a screen reader user.
  2. Vendor/CMS selection – request a demo copy, require an RFP that includes accesibilty checklists.
  3. Tech planning – determine features, add-on m odules, if you are going to use ajax, flash, google anaylsics (and make sure you know how to do each bit in an accessible way)
  4. Garphic design: things like skpi to content links, where titles will be displayed, design colors with contracst at an acceptable level, and your HTML markup and related CSS.
  5. HTML?CSS theme- related to site wide things, like headings, form objects, ensuring linear reading order
  6. Production – Iterative testing (which should be happening at each previous step where possible), testing the creation/editing of features
  7. Testing – If you wait until this phase to check for accessibility, it's too late. This is testing with "real users" for bugs, for most situations
  8. Launch and Maintenance - . Make sure to have ongoing testing, especially when new tools are added. It is vitally important to solicit user feedback in an ongoing way.

One part of their project for Iowa was to produce their RFP response as a fully accessible PDF.

Some of what they do is provide multiple options for content contribution: the WYSIWYG editor+markup, direct HTML editing, or simple text input with comments (do this or that) for other developers to follow later (say a non-sighted user posting content that needs layout work from a sighted user).

Always consider what parts of an interface can be removed to make it easier for everyone. When new modules/features are being coded/added, do the same type of evaluation to just cut the dross to start with.

They generally only use about a dozen add-ons/modules for Drupal. Although there are thousands out there, it's impossible to keep up and verify that all those modules are natively accessible (and generate accessible content).

They also provide audio snippets of audio books. The use the browser native player by default, but provide multiple other file formats for users to choose to use if that won't work for them.

Making a CMS accessible: make sure you do this for an open source project, and contribute your developments back in to the source.

They updated some ajx menus to be obvious to screen reader users. The also made form error feedback appear at the top of the page, obvious, with links to the problem areas.

Speaker: Mike Scott (OneNet, openSource .NET), Illinois Department of Human Services

About 7-8 years about, IDHS started exploring CMS systems for the intranet and web site. This lead to them (being dissatisfied with what was available) eventually building their own, which is now available via open source.

There are two parts- the part the developers work with, like CSS and templates, to make accessible. The next layer is the content layer- the content the end users make must allow non-technical end users to reliably create accessible web content.

"This is not a knowledge problem, this is a tools problem" Jon Gunderson, University of Illinois

After years of trying to train people to create accessible content, they realized this was the case, and that training alone was never going to get them to their goal of accessible web content creators/content. To get them to remember and apply all the best practices just wasn't working.

The then did a study to compare ten different authoring tools, and content for users to create as a document. Then users were tasked to make the content to see what tools inherently generated accessible content. This revealed that "it's not enough to make accessibility possible, it must be automatic." With Dreamweaver/contribute in particular, it becamse clear the tools were there, but hidden, and not part of the default authoring flow in any of those systems. This lead to their development of OneNet.

OneNet is meant to prevent bad choice to start with (removing the font tags, which aren't semantic). They removed that, and replaced it with structural mark-up options (like headings). As much as possible, all accessibility markup coding needed to happen automatically. They needed to provide a way for users to check their work- some accessibility features must be human checked (does alt text for an image exist isn't the same as making sure it was a useful description). So throughout their tool gives prompts and explanations on what accessibility features needed to be added, and walked them through it.

Right now they are using OneNet to manage about 40,000 pages (intranet and internet) with about 350 contributors.

Pages all have the edit button on them for logged in authorized users. Clicking it open the page in their web based editor. They also wanted to make sure the editor itself was as accessible as possible. There's isn't 100%, but it is pretty close. They've included lot's of keyboard shortcuts, etc. The latest version of JAWS can almost user their editor.

If they choose the wrong heading ( a possible accessibility error) they are prompted about the problem, and offered a fix the can accept or reject.

When it sees punctuation based "fake" lists, it will automatically change it to a real list as soon as a user starts editing it.

It prompts when you add links ("this link text already used on the page" and "please make sure the link text is meaningful).

When images are uploaded, a user is asked about the type of image (decorative, simple, or complex-like a chart or graph).

At the point a user in the workflow marks a page is done (for publishing or the next level of review) all the accessibility checkers are fired up sequentially (but you can choose to use them from the navigation menu as you create content as well). As they accept remediation options in the pop-up window, the actual content in the WYSIWYG is also updated.

When it sees a "fake" list, it will tell you so, and ask you to pick the correct list style (ordered, unordered, etc)

They also do some checking of links to an external document (like a pdf, to ask how they've made it accessible- it's natively accessible, the provide contact information to get an accessible version, or there is an alternate version available somewhere).

Q: So user can all ignore prompts, or is that configurable? What percent compliance with your own rules (IITAA) does this system have? The prompting isn't configurable yet. But some options are lockable (like stopping some user classes from editing html directly). Most people have been beaten in the head about rules, so most users don't ignore this. If you have an approver included in the workflow for creating and publishing content, so they'll send these problem back to the user before the will allow it to be published. Their intranet allows more dismissal/less approval at the final publishing step, so likely less compliance there.

Q: How do you convince your higher ups to contribute code modifications back to the source, and keep a focus on that? A. The reality is that code forks almost never happen, and when it does it's accompanied by fairly grave consequences, basically maintenance upkeep in the long run. If we don't contribute back, each time a major upgrade comes out to the CMS you are using, you have to recode that feature again. Rather than that, it's a better idea to get into a core distribution, because now you've got guaranteed broad community support for the feature you so desperately need that you're willing to develop it on your own.

Form the audience: At Yahoo, they've forked their own version of Drupal out because they've found they can do significantly better than the development community. What about views in Drupal being made more accessible (like views and cck). First they wanted to start with Drupal core. Then they'll work with module developer (like for views) to get them to upgrade their modules to make it more accessibility. Even though they will often use views to create a site for a client, they never actually deploy views for clients to use because it is too overwhelming.

Illinois Web Accessibility Conference and Expo: Session 3 – Adobe PDF Accessibility using Acrobat and Common Look

Speaker: Mike Scott from the Illinois Department of Human Services.

PDF was originally designed for graphic designer so there was a single files format they could send to printers that hand high fidelity between the designer page layout and the publication the print house produced. The heart of PDF is post-script- a printer language.

PDF benefits: looks the same on screen, printed, etc. Free viewer. Can be easily transmitted and shared.

PDF behind –the-scenes: PDF documents can contain three different representations of the same document inside the code. The PS based physical view that we see and print. That's what PDF started with. Then the moved on to content level, used for searching, indexing, copying/pasting. This is the content layer (or content tree). This is another layer of data separate from the physical view. That layer started to make PDF accessibility possible. But this still wasn't a very rich experience. The layout and formatting (Headings, tables, etc) weren't made available to accessible tool users. Finally a third layer was added- the tag layer. This exposed document structure and HTML-like markup to the user. This includes table header markup. It turns the plain stream of text into something semantic and understandable.

PDFs are made either by converting word processor file, or by scanning and OCRing print materials. Optionally, another step is to take it in to acrobat pro and add feature that can't be created/converted (interactive forms, for instance).

The heart of PDF accessibility is the tagging structure (document reading order) and tooltips.

The free acrobat reader has a light-weight accessibility checking tool, but it only checks for the most basic features, so don't rely on it. Acrobat Professional has a more full featured [but still not perfect] tool for checking a pdf for accessibility. More importantly, it provides a way to remediate problems on the fly (add alternate text while working on a document) or, more importantly, use the touchup tool to change the reading order of tags/elements on the page. You also often need to access the tag view (in a tree) to expand and collapse branches to see things. For instance, we look at a document and see that it has headings out of order. Then you can just choose the item through the tag tree and change the heading level. Right now it doesn't allow you to add anything beyond h3 (although acrobat understands all the way up to h6). In that case you need to edit the properties of the element as well, and then you change it (but not through the Touch up tool). You also can't add/manipulate list through the TURO – touch up reading order – tool. It works very well with simple documents, and it can be used in combination with the tag tree. But there is a catch, related to the reading order.

Because the content and tag layer are separate, they may very well be in different orders. So remediating in TURO tool changes the content layer, not the tag tree. But screen reader use the tag tree representation. It will update the content eventually if you finish an entire document, but not until then {I'm not sure I got the gist of the quite right.]

Knowing that you can't trust TURO 100%, there is another way to do a quicker check- in both Reader and Pro. In reader it's "save as text" in Pro it's the "save as accessible text" option.

This allows you to very quickly check for the most terrible problems (broken reading order) for a quick triage. One major drawback is this is just a stream of text (no headings or other structural markup is there).

Another neat feature in the free version is read out loud. It's not as good as, nor does it replace, a screen reader for PDFs. But, it does read the text in the order of "Save as [accessible] text" so you can use it to listen to a documents and identify reading order problems.

Q: Which layer does the save as accessible text come from? Both read out loud and save as accessible text draw their data from the tag tree layer.

All these free tools are useful, but they haven't given us all the tools we need to remediate a document, especially a complex document.

One major issue is that this workflow means that if the source document changes, then you must start over from the beginning.

If you are working with PDF forms in particular (not for PDF in general for this portion of the presentation), there is a better tool- Adobe LiveCycle Designer. This comes with the Pro level. This is a true form design tool that was built from the ground up (previously as another product, JetForm). It is a GUI WYSIWYG based form creation tool. Lots of the normal form elements (like title/heading) automatically becomes a tooltip- nothing extra need to be added. But there is the ability to manually add a tooltip. Anyone using PDF forms should go to designer.

Q: Does LiveCycle designer support JavaScript based form automation/checks? A. Designer does allow the use of script directly, with a rich scripting environment (two languages supported- javascript or formcalc). They haven't used it too much yet, just some basic tasks.

One other way to make it better- especially for documents that aren't forms. We can't create brochures, etc. from acrobat natively. But we have a tool that makes the testing a fixing a little easier. An Acrobat plug-in that does everything TURO should be doing but doesn't, CommonLook (~ $1000 retail, or ~$600 on subscription).

Split screen display- the physical view, and then a special version that is the content, displayed in the order as displayed in the tag view, but with some minimal semantic base display changes (headings are bigger, lists, etc).

Q. Why are the words chopped up? Because of the seemingly arbitrary chunks that adobe chunks text in to. You can go in, grab those chunks, and move them in to the right place. But you can't split the chunk- you have to move the entire bit.

Very simply point, click, select option interface. Much, much better than TURO and the tag tree remediation that comes in Acrobat Pro.

It will also provide great levels of details about complex object like tables. It also provides a checklist of possible problems and steps for correcting them in the document. It reports the problem, and when you dismiss the warning it provides the necessary tool/option to provide/fix the problem. You can also check for color-contrast (to make sure essential information isn't lost to someone that can't perceive the color).

Jon Gunderson has arranged for a free trial view for anyone at UIUC through the IHBE. This is available for about six more months. The only catch is they want feedback on how well it worked for you (to make decisions later on possible acquiring it for campus wide use). You can sign-up for a trial online (as well as some paper based forms here at the conference). The URL for the site is included in the PowerPoint, which will be posted online.

Keys to Success: Try to do as much accessibility work on the source document before converting to PDFs. iCITA offers classes about this (stop by the IT access table and talk to them to find about the free online versions of their sources). At least use the accessibility check in the free reader, preferably the better tools in Pro. Use TURO and the tags panel to fix major problems. Finally, if you do this a lot, try out CommonLook.

Q: What if it doesn't need to be a PDF? Do you suggest a different format? Yes, they often suggest to the users to make a web native format, like HTML. We explain to them that PDF is really about printing, and the move to it in a big way on line has to do with laziness (print to PDF style options). But if print output is key (like a form that needs to be filled out and printed) then a PDF version might be the best.

Q. Regarding IITAA- if the PDF is just a second version, and there is an accessible version, is that okay? Yes, the IITAA section 15.1 and 15.2 says either make the document natively accessible, or provide it in an alternative natively accessible format (HTML is usually the best choice). A link saying if you "request an accessible copy" instead of posting that version then no, you wouldn't be meeting the IITAA requirements.

Q: What about linking to the accessible version from the PDF? A. They don't, but it's a good thought.

Re: Today's postings on the UIUC Web Accessibily Expo

I apologize for any grammar and spelling errors for today's postings. Some of you requested this info asap, which means I am just taking as many notes as possible without stopping to check my grammar. I will edit these entries for grammar mistakes later this evening.

Illinois Web Accessibility Conference and Expo: Session 2 –Video Captioning

Speaker: Colleen Cook, ATLAS, UIUC

Their first step is trying to make the task of transcription easier for users. They also are trying to require that users provide a transcript through policy.

They are also trying to use some automation to automatically generate a synchronized transcript, matching speaking pauses to comma, periods, and paragraph changes.

Finally, they are focusing on marketing- educating instructors about this service being available, and what they need to do to make their content more available. They are also advertising how this helps sighted users with search- a transcript/synchronized caption makes text based searching of audio/video presentations far more user friendly.

They also encourage people to keep their audio/video to 5-10 minutes. Most web users just won't sit through a video that is longer than that. Plus, it makes it easier for them to caption and synch it. In fact, they don't charge for captioning audio/video under 10 minutes.

They are currently using Inkscribe for transcription, and Mac caption for synching the captions.

They have a web based product that allows the user to upload the transcript, and the audio. The software scans for pauses, then does it's best to synch the captions with the audio. Then they prompt the user for massaging the data.

They create CMIL and SAMI files. They also will work on closed captioning for DVDs. His PowerPoint listed a bunch of software, hopefully they'll post that. If they do I'll come back and link to it.

Their current criteria are that the auto-synching be within a ½ second of the actual audio.

They also have the option to auto-segment auio in five second increments. This is useful for more conversational speaking, Q&A, anything that isn't more like a "read"/prepared presentation. This also works for people without transcripts, as they can listen to each five second segment, and then type in the caption directly. They are working on increasing/decreasing segment length, as well as remove or insert segments. They want to have the segments hit the next "probable" speech pause instead, so the arbitrary time based cut-off doesn't clip the middle of a sentence or word. Right now the IITAA doesn't require this for course content- only publically available content. Right now, classroom content is only required to be accessible if a member of the class needs and requests it.

They have this working for both flash and Quicktime. They also want to incorporate additional audio data. Contact presenter at dpharvey@eiu.edu

Slides will be available online at http://www.eiu.edu/~cats/iwaac/

Q: Can anyone access/use this now? A: We hope so soon. They are looking for the best ways for distribute this- maybe a web app people log in and use. But maybe they'll go the downloadable app route.

Q: Data on cost per minute to do the synchronized captioning? Right now their tool is quicker than real time (working with compiled C code to be faster than say php). Definitely cheaper than any professional service, and they hope to provide this service for free. Most tools require you sit through and DOI this manually, even with a transcript, it takes at least (and usually more than) real time. 20 minute clips takes >= 20- minutes to synch. Only 1 in 10 times does it require mediation on the auto-synching.

Q: Anything there to [couldn't hear this question] A. No, this is geared primarily for speech, not video.

Q: Can it accept a file, or do you need to type it in? You can just upload it with the media file.

Speaker: Angie Anderson, Accessible Media Service, DRES, UIUC

They've only been doing this for about 2 years now, and they are focusing on IITAA compliance. They are trying to educate the faculty about the need to caption. They have run in to a few instructors who are very resistant to captioning video, and they've been using those need cases (disabled user in the class) to show instructors on why there is a needs for this [just beyond search improvement?]. They currently have one academic hourly doing most of the captioning. She is working 40 hours/ week and is constantly busy. They are currently working with the Office of Public Affairs to come up with a campus wide policy on captioning, which will help get faculty aware of what their responsibilities are. But some of them don't even know what markup format/accessibility improvements will work in their smart classrooms (just how to turn the caption option on for a DVD). It's important to keep data on how long it takes, so you can get more money from you director (which you will need later). They also use a lot of student workers. Make friends with people on campus that create a lot of video, like Colleen or Liam from ATLAS. Professors are going to provide videos in lots of different formats, created with a myriad of tools- some that are very odd and hard to deal with. They ran in to a few formats that the captioning software couldn't use. They use windows movie maker (standard on window computers). They always add a captioned by plug at the beginning or end of the video so people know who's doing it on campus. They also use Express Scribe with Word Perfect. It can extract audio form a video for you, and use a foot pedal to get the transcript to stop/start. Their main software for captioning ois from CPC. It's high end and expensive. Their version is $5000. But they've paid for that many times over in the last two years. The software is great, and the support has been outstanding- early on just trying to figure out how to do video captioning- more a user issue. The only problem is that it can't import flash videos. They mostly use AVI or Windows Media files. They try to stick to 25-30 characters per captions link. They also try to use markup stamps (music icon) and speaker change indication as well. The most prevalent format right now on campus if flash. Right now the export the data to XML, then use Adobe (currently CS3, soon CS4) to stick the captions in to the Flash files and synch them.

The national standard for captioning is about 6-8 hours per hour of audio/video. But with the transcript provided, the turnaround time is closer to an hour (or close to the real time of the actual video) Most time it takes a day per video.

About 90% of their time is spent creating the transcript. So they use lots of students. They do community service hours work sometimes to get free transcription as well.

Q: What are other tools you've tried and maybe haven't decided to use? What about Dragon Naturally Speaking for instance? Something for people that are only doing captioning sporadically? A. A lot of people on campus have tried this and not been happy with it.

Q: Data on cost per hour? Yes, we keep it, but don't have it on hand. Last semester the captioned about 400 videos, some 3 mintues clips, some hour long ones.

Q: Moving from captions to subtitling? A. Not yet, but considering it. Many professors don't like to see always on screen subtitles.

Q: Dragon for parroting? They haven't tried it, but they feel that they can type faster than they can talk.

Speaker: Liam from ATLAS

Normally, if they have a video that needs captioning, then the go to Angie at DRES. If it's too complex, then they jump back in. They often require users to contract with a third-party to create the transcript. Then they work from that. Their tool [missed name, but locally developed, so it may not have one- they also use Encore] takes the {usually garbage) text file, and dumps out segments of the appropriate character length for captions. Then it prompts the user to correct the mistakes. This then dumps out a GFXP.xml file with time codes. Then a third program allows you to synch up those captions with segments of audio/video.

They are working hard at making a player to show the multi-media with captions. They want captions and scene description [descriptive audio] There are currently two good players available.; one is made by WBGH and one is by Ohio State. They are both based on the GW player (?), an open source product.

For the scene description, the best practice is currently to have a second mp3 file playing (to describe the content of a PowerPoint slide, for instance). But they'd prefer to integrate it into a single file, or at least make the player that can play/control them separately (and, for instance, pause the main AV when the descriptive track has content to play).

Prototype at http://flash.atlas.illinois.edu/Prototype.html . Liam couldn't show it because the network blocks the port it needs.