Sunday, February 27, 2011

Building ebook collections

We hear a lot about how important it is for children's librarians to build their collection of digital materials, but few sources get down to the nitty-gritty of buying and making available these resources. Now an excellent post in the ALSC blog goes into the details of choosing and obtaining e-materials for children. As the post points out, there are some excellent classic titles available on Project Gutenberg, the freely available treasure house of books, but recent titles must be bought and paid for. Questions about choosing a vendor and a format then come up, as well as the issue of integrating these titles into the library catalog. Be sure to read this post and follow the discussion about it. Ebooks are not going away and librarians must cope with the complexities of providing them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Finally some reviews

The latest development in reviewing children's materials comes from Kirkus with the announcement that they will soon offer reviews of children's book apps. SLJ offers an overview of how parents, teachers, and librarians will be able to search for apps suitable for children of specific ages or using other criteria. Any librarian who has tried to use the i-Tunes store to search for apps knows the frustration of trying to sort appropriate offerings from those that have mangled familiar stories or put together careless apps that don't provide the kind of experience children need. The Kirkus app will be available first for the i-Pad, but it is expected that it will soon be designed for almost any e-reading device. This one sounds like a winner for librarians and teachers, so be sure to try it as soon as you can.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Death of a legend

We are getting close to the 100th anniversary of the great explosion of growth in children's publishing and children's libraries that started in the 1920s and hit its stride in the 1950s. Every year we lose another of the pioneers from the early pre-WWII days who left their stamp on both professions. Margaret K. McElderry, who started her career as a children's librarian, became one of the best known and most honored editors in the field. Both the N.Y. Times and SLJ paid tribute to her this week for her work in developing children's authors and illustrators throughout her career. She had a strong conviction of the importance of children's books, knowing that unless individuals become readers early in life, they are unlikely to ever follow that path. She chose carefully and published only books that she found worthwhile, but she allowed authors and illustrators to try out new formats and new content. For more than fifty years she was a leader in producing remarkable books for generations of children. She trained many younger editors, let's hope they will be able to continue the tradition despite the pressures of these difficult times.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Newer, shorter books

We all know how many students come into the library with a request for "a short book". A book report assignment often calls out this response. Now the makers of ebook reading devices are answering this call, for adults as well as young people. A few weeks ago Kindle announced plans to publish short books--somewhere between a novella and a novel--that will be sold for Kindle. Now more publishers are jumping into the game, often to provide materials to read on i-phones, i-pads and other small mobile devices. According to a N.Y. Times story, this trend may lead to some big changes in publishing as writers and editors learn to tailor their wares to the needs of today's readers. With magazines fading from prominence for many readers, there is a need for a detailed account of events or a complex story, but one that does not require a full book to recount. Another advantage of the short form is that the time from the conception of the idea to the availability of the text is much shorter than for conventional books. It will be interesting to see whether the revolution in Egypt and turmoil in other Arab countries will be detailed in some of these new, short, immediate ebooks.

For those who mourn the decline of the printed book, there is a cheerful sight in San Francisco this weekend as the lavish booths of the World's Largest Antiquarian Book Fair were on display. There were plenty of lovers of print books around to browse, enjoy, and even purchase the books, which range in price from under $100 to over a million.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kindles get better

Librarians and teachers will be especially happy to see the news from that Kindle ebooks will soon have pages. It's very frustrating for librarians to deal with content that is difficult to search and difficult to synchronize with print versions of the same content. Talking to a group--a class or reading group--in which people are using different versions of a text can be irritating if you cannot refer people to a specific sentence or paragraph. These new Kindle page numbers will be the same as the page numbers in the print versions, so life will become easier for group leaders as well as for family and friends who like to talk about books. The introductory version of the new software is available through the N.Y. Times article on the subject. The downside is that early adopters of the Kindle, those who do not have the latest models, cannot get the software. Only people with the Kindle 3 in its various versions can download the software. If they don't want to bother doing it themselves, it will soon be sent to them wirelessly. The rest of us will have to decide whether to buy a new Kindle for $139 or to continue suffering the no-pagination problem. Not an easy choice!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Treasury of Art

Librarians and teachers should know about Google's Art Project and introduce students to it. The images at the Art Project give viewers a chance to visit some of the major art museums of the world, including the Tate Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Once you click on the name of the museum, you can get a tour of the facility or view individual works of art. Unlike a real-life museum where paintings must often be viewed at a distance and sometimes over the heads of other visitors, this project gives viewers the chance for an intimate encounter with each painting. Areas can be enlarged for better viewing. Individual faces can be studied as well as details of architecture of decor. The Art Project is a treasure not to be missed by anyone who enjoys the beauty and excitement of fine art.