The Inviolable Rights of the Reader

Set aside the rigid reading model of your childhood, the one that guilts you in to reading every word, page, and chapter in a book. How many times have you, as a reader, been stoic and endured the unnecessary pain and misery of finishing a bad book. Some books do not deserve to be read to the end.

Daniel Pennac offers children (and those adults who never learned otherwise) an alternative; with his Inviolable Rights of the Reader1 he offers a way to make reading fun again.

  1. The right not to read
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right not to finish a book
  4. The right not to re-read
  5. The right to read anything
  6. The right to ‘bovarysme’ (a textually transmissible disease)
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to browse
  9. The right to read out loud
  10. The right to remain silent (not to have to comment on what has been read)
  1. Pennac, D. (1994). Reads like a novel. London: Quartet Books.>

Book Xylophone

O’Reilly Books are more than text.


You need to install or upgrade Flash Player to view this content, install or upgrade by clicking here.



There are Memoirs and Then There is the Truth

Last fall I worked with a class on how to be information literate when it comes to biographical sources. Autobiographies, biographies, and memories are often filled with half-truths, altered-truths, or none-truths (lies). It is a matter of getting students to figure out the author’s bias and when to be critical of what they are reading.

Information literacy is about making savvy information consumers. In the literature there are lots of examples of hoax websites that get cited over and over again. While they can make for a fun day in the classroom, most online examples are laughably obvious. Websites like: Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus or RYT Hospital. The truly dangerous and hard to identify stuff comes from professionals in the field, academics, and popularized researchers: Those who publish “real” books through “real” publishers.  Examples of this nature make students stop laughing and sit up.

The example that I use in my classes is that of Stephen Ambrose; the popular historian that every American has heard of, if not read. In the April 26, 2010 New Yorker, the article Channelling Ike lays out a detailed case for made up interviews and facts in Ambrose’s biographical books on the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the Slate, the article The Plagiarist: Why Stephen Ambrose is a Vampire explores his long history of plagiarism.

National Public Radio (NPR)  aired a piece last week on memoirs and their “murkey” nature. Entitled ‘Tea’ Debacle Reflects The Murky Waters Of Memoirs,1 this piece explores a broad range of current authors who’s memories are faulty. NPR followed this up with a piece that explores the responsibility of the publisher when it comes to the facts.2 (See below to hear both.)  Some authors are much more interested in a good story than the facts, that is something we all need to keep in mind.


‘Tea’ Debacle Reflects The Murky Waters Of Memoirs


Vetting Memoirs A Tricky Problem For Publishers:NPR

  1. Neda Ulaby. (2011, April 19). ‘Tea’ Debacle Reflects The Murky Waters Of Memoirs : NPR. National Public Radio. Retrieved April 26, 2011, from
  2. Talk of the Nation. (2011, April 25). Vetting Memoirs A Tricky Problem For Publishers : NPR. National Public Radio. Retrieved April 26, 2011, from

Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge, Trade Name: Book

In the modern age of the e-book, we do not readily equate the simple pulp-based book with technology, but the paper book is unarguably one of the greatest technological advances in the history of humanity. Humbly serving for the past two millennia as the retainer of and disseminator of human knowledge, it is only surpassed by the alphabet that makes possible the ideas it holds, and the printing press that makes it so readily available. The brief piece of prose that follows comically helps remind us of this.  There are several version of this on the web; this one is from a library colleague.  I have also posted a video version below.

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device, trade named: BOOK.

BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It’s so easy to use, even a child can operate it.

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere — even sitting in an armchair by the fire — yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc. Here’s how it works:

BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder, which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, BOOKs with more information simply use more pages.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. BOOK may be taken up at any time and used merely by opening it.

Unlike other display devices, BOOK never crashes or requires rebooting, and it can even be dropped on the floor or stepped on without damage. However, it can become unusable if immersed in water for a significant period of time. The “browse” feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an “index” feature, which pinpoints the exact location of selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional “BOOKmark” accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session — even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOKmarkers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (PENCILS).

Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. Also, BOOK’s appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking. Look for a flood of new titles soon.


You need to install or upgrade Flash Player to view this content, install or upgrade by clicking here.


The Future of E-Readers: The enTourage eDGe

source: enTourage eDGe

source: enTourage eDGe

A few weeks ago, I posted on Sony’s new economical Pocket Edition e-reader.   With a price tag of $199.99, it makes the move from pulp-based paper to digital e-paper bearable.  In that post, I noted that my concern with e-readers has always been their lack of functionality and versatility.  They are mostly designed for one thing: reading books.  However, a truly unique device will be hitting the market in the next few months.  The enTourage eDGe is the first dual netbook and e-reader device in one.

At $490, the price is relatively significant, but the functionality is impressive. It has a clam like case that opens to reveal two separate screens.  One is a dedicated e-reader and the other is a dedicated netbook. Powered by Google’s Android operating system, one can browse the web, send and receive email, listen to mp3’s, and watch videos on one screen, and on the other screen read a book, takes notes in the margins, or write, with a stylus, their thoughts and notes on a lined piece of e-paper. This is the most innovative and promising e-reader device that I have seen.

The Titanic Problem of Information Overload: Its Scope and Scale

“Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink”, 18th century words that have 21st century relevancy. In Samuel Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the mariner is in an ocean of water, but cannot find a drop to drink. In the 21st century, the mariner is all of us. In an age of vast seas of information, all of us must navigate the information that surrounds us all day—every day—to find the few drops of information that are consumable and usable.

In the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, the oceans of information we produce and consume are titanic. In 2008, Americans consumed 3.6 zettabytes of information. Let me break that down. One zettabyte is equal to a million million gigabytes. As a number a zettabyte looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That is twenty-one zeros. Yes, twenty-one zeros. If 3.6 zettabytes of information were printed in the form of a textbook, all of the continental United States and the state of Alaska would be covered with a seven foot stack of books.1

This all raises the question, how is information measured? There are many ways to measure information. In the digital age, information can be measured as the flow of bits and bytes. On a computer, a binary bit is equal to either a 0 or 1. Taken together, many bits convey meaning.

What about information that is printed and consumed in hard copy? Well, A typical character is equal to 1 byte which is equal to 8 bits of information. After doing some math, one would find that the typical book is roughly equal to 1 megabyte of information.

The information that Americans consume every year comes from a myriad of places: television, print, radio, phone, internet, movies, and music. Interestingly, though, despite the pervasive presence of the internet in our lives, it only accounted for about 25% of the information consumed (in word format and time wise) in 2008. Americans consume about 12 hours of information every day, of which 60% of that time is spent listening to the radio and watching TV.2

Netcraft’s January 2010 Web Server Survey puts the number of website online at 206,741,990 sites (this includes top-end domains and their sub-domains).3 All of which contain about a trillion webpages. That is a lot content, and that is just the web. In 2005, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt estimated the internet’s size to be five million terabytes of information (a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes). Eric Schmidt went on to say that from 1998 to 2005, Google indexed .004% of the internet and that if the internet stopped all growth and became stagnant, at its 2005 size, it would take another 300 years for Google to index it.4

Beyond interactive bits and bytes, many of us still consume our information from hard copy sources. I love books, but can there be such a thing as too many? Take the Library of Congress, it is the largest library in the World. It houses over 100 million items, adds 7,000 new books to its collection each day, and has over 530 miles of shelving. Looking at the question from a global scale, in all of the world’s libraries there are 16 billion volumes, or 2.5 times as many books as people on the planet.5

The world’s library collections are enormous in scale, but the publishing industry is not far behind. According to Bowker publishing, during the year 2008, there were 275,000 new titles and new editions published. That is down 3% from the year before.6 With numbers like these, interlibrary loans and system holds are critical library tools.

In the 21st century, consumers are besieged by a cacophony of information that is at times dizzying and overwhelming. From 1960 to 2008 the per capita time spent consuming information has gone up by 60%: from about seven hour a day to about twelve hours a day.7 However, as the idiom goes: garbage in, garbage out. Quantity does not equal quality, and for this reason librarians will always be in demand.

  1. Roger E. Bohn, & James E. Short. How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from
  2. Roger E. Bohn, & James E. Short. How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from
  3. January 2010 Web Server Survey – Netcraft. Netcraft. Retrieved January 14, 2010, from
  4. Thomas H Forthe. (2009, May 12). How Big is the Internet, and How Does One Measure a World Wide Phenomenon? Retrieved January 14, 2010, from
  5. Libraries: How They Stack Up. (2003). OCLC. Retrieved January 20, 2010, from
  6. Bowker Reports U.S. Book Production Declines 3% in 2008, but “On Demand” Publishing More than Doubles. R. R. Bowker. Retrieved January 14, 2010, from
  7. Roger E. Bohn, & James E. Short. How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from

Sony E-book Reader for Cheap (Sort of)



For a long time, I looked askance at e-readers. Before the Sony Reader, Amazon’s Kindle, and now Barnes & Noble’s Nook, there was over a decade of hype and failed products. There is also the price barrier. The top end Sony Reader (Daily Edition) retails for $399.99. For a long time, I thought why pay a substantial sum for a dedicated machine when for just a few hundred dollars more I can have a multifunction laptop on which I can read a book, surf the web, and do my finances all at the same time.(?)

However, the Sony Reader Pocket Edition has caused me to rethink my position. For those who are as financially challenged as myself in these tough times, it retails for $199.99. A much easier number to absorb, it weights 7.76 ounces, includes a 5 inch display, and with 512mb of memory it can carry up to 350 books at a time. Thanks to this machine, my e-reader prejudices are starting to recede.