Colour and Bits

While researching for my group poster project on copyright and libraries, I came across this article. Matthew Skala makes some very interesting points regarding the “colour” of information. I found it very interesting that if you look at digital information from a technologists point of view, two things with identical bits are identical, though if you look at them from a librarian’s point of view they are two distinct things and cannot be considered equal. What was also interesting is the idea that from a technologists point of view, copyright is basically impossible.

To a computer scientist, on the other hand, bits are bits are bits and it is absolutely fundamental that two identical chunks of bits cannot be distinguished.  Colour does not exist.  I’ve seen computer people claim (indeed, one did this to me just today in the very discussion that inspired this posting) that copyright law inescapably leads to nonsense conclusions like “If I own copyright on one thing, and copyright inherits through XOR, then I own copyright on everything because everything can be obtained from my one thing by XORing it with the right file.” (Skala, 2004)

My undergraduate degree is in engineering, so I studied a lot of math and physics. In both of those subjects, as long as you have all the right variables in an equation in the proper relationships, then a²+b²=c² is the same as b²+a²=c² and the same as b²=c²-a². So, I can see how two things with identical bits (even in different orders) can be indistinguishable which means that I sometimes have trouble with arguments about digital vs print because if the content is the same then there is no difference. With almost a full semester of library school behind me, however, I still have trouble explaining how numbers and math are Coloured but I have no problem with understanding the Colour of books, digital items, and information.

I hope you read this article, because I found it really interesting.

Skala, M. (2004, June 10). What colour are your bits?. In Ansuz: People before principles.

Lo and behold, a QR code!

As I was meandering through my bookmarks looking for something interesting, I opened Project Gutenberg in search of a book to read. Right there, on the homepage, what do I see but a QR Code directing users to the mobile version of the homepage. And then, as I was browsing around, I noticed that on the pages for each individual book, there was a QR code to download the book in whichever format you prefer right to your mobile device. Now, if libraries integrated QR codes into their catalogs so users could place holds easily or search for reader’s advisory tips relating to that book, it would be a good idea.

(PS. I’m not actually obsessed with QR codes, I just seem to notice them more often since the lecture in IST605 and am impressed by the way they are used.)


I have to say, the second rapid response assignment for 511 was probably the most fun I have had doing classwork since 6th grade when we did medieval day and got to wear costumes to school. My group made a video with “interviews” with two fake and two real librarians to kinda show the differences between the stereotype and the real thing. Coming up with the script was fun and then filming was HILARIOUS. There’s even an outtake at the end because we were cracking up so much. Once filming was done, I got to learn how to edit a video. I can’t tell you how excited we were when we realized we could add music to the introduction and the closing credits. Anyone recognize the song? That’s right, it’s Lady Gaga’s Disco Heaven. We just had to put Lady Gaga in somewhere because of this video.

And I am very excited right now because I just got accepted for an internship!!

Here’s our video again:

Books vs. eBooks or should it be Books vs. eBook Readers

It is raining again. Rainy weather is the perfect time to talk or blog about books because when it rains, I want to do nothing more than curl up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of tea. Ever since class last week and Prof. Lankes’ keynote speech at the Polaris Users Group Annual Meeting, everyone in class has been blogging about books and ebooks.

A common theme is that of the physical book being an object of sentimental value. The feel, smell, and personal history of an individual print volume is a (large or small) portion of the worth of that particular book. I do not think that printed pages bound together to form a book will ever lose that value. Many libraries have displays of restored, recovered, or preserved books and print documents from history. The New York Public Library owns a Gutenburg Bible and anyone who says that a digitized copy of a Gutenberg Bible is equivalent to or better than the original mouldy paper version is in serious need of some education. I believe that the print book is a very important part of human history and should be preserved for the future. I do not, however, believe that the printed page is what most people will be reading two generations from now.

When the ebook was first being talked about, I was very much on the NO side of the argument. I am sentimental enough to love the feel, smell, and personal history of a printed book so I was very much against ebooks and ebook readers. Then, I moved to Japan where English language books are double the price and my local library only had children’s books in English. I love reading but I didn’t want to pay so much for books that I would probably end up leaving behind when I moved back to the USA. So, I bought a Kindle (after carefully reviewing the other ebook readers available at the time).

At first, I didn’t like it because it wasn’t a book. However, after two and a half years of reading on the Kindle, I can recognize that this non-book is merely a first generation in the evolution of the book. It happened before when mankind first scratched on clay tablets and then moved on to papyrus and scrolls. Then from scrolls to books hand copied by scholars and monks and on to the printing press. Moving now from the physical object to the digital format is just the next level in the development of mankind’s relationship with information.

You are reading this blog. This blog does not have a print copy and never will unless you decide you want to print it on paper so you can touch and smell it and pass on memories of it along with the physical object. That my blog is not in print format may and in fact does greatly limit the number of people with access to it right now if you are aware of the digital divide debate. But in the future, it may be that this format will be so outdated, you’ll need somebody in a clean room wearing gloves and carefully handling 21st century computer hardware just so you can view it (like historians do now when handling delicate paper records).

I feel like I’m pulling a Lankes and trying to make a big motivational point at the end, but really I just want to say that wether you like it or not, the print book will become obsolete and possibly within our lifetimes. In class this evening Prof. Lankes broke us up in groups to come up with pro and con arguments for five different issues and then work together to come up with a third option. Some of us are pro-ebook and some are not. As librarians, we are all pro-information so let’s come up with the third option.

First Sale Doctrine Versus EULAs

I was browsing through some library related blogs this evening and I found something slightly disturbing. One of the topics for our group project and poster in IST511 (coincidentally the one my group chose), is about the First Sale Doctrine and libraries. This news article is about a court case, Verner v. Autodesk. Verner was selling copies of Autocad he purchased at an architect’s office sale, including the serial numbers, on eBay. Autodesk, the makers of Autocad, tried to shut down his sales so he sued them claiming he had the right to resale. Unfortunately, due to the original contract signed by the architectural firm he purchased the software from, courts found in favor of Autodesk. The contract “… made clear that AutoCAD was merely licensed, never sold, and that one’s license was non-transferable.

Now, if you think about it, what does this mean for the futures of used video game, movie, and music stores? Libraries may be safe (as far as books are concerned) for a while yet, but with this court case decision, could publishers seek to make similar agreements concerning their published works? If a library was only able to hold or lend books and media that are in the public domain, the value of the library as an information center will be greatly reduced if not snuffed out altogether. It is all well and good to say that a library is not dependent on books for value, but if a library no longer has the right to share information through any media due to license agreements imposed by publishers and software or digital media creators, it will have lost its most valuable asset: Information.

IFLA – International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions

This semester I am taking a course on International Librarianship (IST600 M009). For class this week, each student had to choose an activity or group in IFLA and make a short presentation describing it to the class. I chose the audiovisual and multimedia section for my presentation because when browsing through the groups, they had a lot more information available than some of the others. One of the more interesting things I came across while learning about the AVMS was a project they are involved in called IconoTag. It is a project to study multilingual indexing for pictures. Anybody can help them with the project by going to the IconoTag website, choosing a language you are familiar with, and tagging some pictures for them.

I am also interested in reading the papers that were presented at this years IFLA Conference in Gothenburg because the theme for the AVMS was “Open access – on the horns of a dilemma between piracy and legality?” I will let you know when they publish the papers online, since you might find it interesting as well.