Saturday, April 23, 2011

Part of the Kindle & Libraries Problem Solved

Readers of this blog may recall a previous post regarding Kindles and libraries. That post pointed out two library problems associated with Kindles - loaning the Kindle itself and allowing eBooks to be downloaded (loaned) to the reader's Kindle from the library.

The first problem - libraries loaning out a Kindle - does not appear to be resolved. Again, it seems likely that market forces will eventually resolve this issue. Maybe.

The second problem - allowing a library patron to download a library eBook onto their own Kindle seems to have been resolved. Check out (pun intended) this article by Julie Bosman in the NY Times - Coming to Your Kindle: Library Books. The key factor - think "market forces" - appears to be summarized rather neatly in this simple observation by Bosman:
Amazon’s dedicated e-reader is not compatible with library e-books, leading many new e-reader buyers who are interested in borrowing e-books from the library to purchase a Nook from Barnes & Noble instead.
How long will it take for Amazon to come to terms with the fact that readers will need to borrow not only the eBook but the device they need to read it?

Friday, April 15, 2011

SSRN Takes a Giant Step Forward

SSRN - the Social Science Research Network - has always been a good source for researchers to find either specific articles or to search for articles about a particular topic. One of the strengths of SSRN has been its willingness to be electronically crawled by the search engines. That's why you can find an article on SSRN through a Google, Bing, or Yahoo search.

On Friday morning SSRN made a quantum leap forward in providing an enhanced platform for legal research. The SSRN CiteReader program has now become available. The CiteReader program allows researchers to mine the footnotes associated with any posted article - even articles posted in PDF. The majority of the references and citations are coming from articles posted on the LSN - the Legal Scholarship Network. LSN is the database where most articles, whether in progress or accepted for publication, are posted before they are published in student edited law journals.

Most researchers consult law review articles for two reasons: the analysis and the footnotes. A law review article is a powerful secondary source to find primary law and other relevant secondary sources. This new feature is a real game changer for SSRN.

From the announcement sent this morning by email:

We have been working on extracting references from all SSRN papers for 5 years as part of the CiteReader™ project that SSRN has undertaken with our development firm, ITX Corp. We have created a system to extract references and footnotes from PDF files on SSRN and to have that extracted data proofread by human beings. While this project is not yet complete, we are now announcing the release of over 6.7 million references extracted from the reference sections of over 182,000 papers on the SSRN site as well as over 4.2 million citations that we have linked to SSRN papers.

– The references from each SSRN paper (where we have been able to extract them) can be found on the REFERENCES tab on the public abstract page for each paper.
– The citations we have matched to each SSRN paper are available on the CITATIONS tab on the public abstract page for the paper.
– These reference links provide an excellent way for any reader to go back in the literature in any area, and the citation links provide an excellent way to go forward in the literature.

Lady Liberty Stamp an Object Lesson for Researchers

If you buy a stamp with what appears to be a picture of the face of Lady Liberty on it - think again. The NY Times reports that the picture on that stamp was not taken at the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. Instead, it was taken in Las Vegas in the parking lot of New York - New York Casino. Sharp-eyed stamp collectors noticed the difference.

How did the USPS make this mistake? Photographs are for sale online from image brokers like Corbis, iStock, Getty, and many others. To help purchasers find the image they want, most of these brokers attach some form of metadata to the image. See this article for a full definition of the term Metadata. The ability to find a particular image is directly related to the kind of metadata attached to the image. Since you can't search the pixels in an image itself you must rely on the words associated with that image, that is, the metadata.

Think of cataloging as the ultimate form of metadata. Being able to use the words associated with ("attached to") a book, a periodical, or a looseleaf to search for that item helps the researcher find it in the collection being searched. Some collections are huge. Without the ability to search the metadata even the best researcher could not find exactly what is in a collection. This is why a library catalog is such a useful tool when you are doing any research including legal research. Without the catalog you miss materials that are out there for you to find or you won't be able to find the exact item you are looking for.

And, it is the metadata in the catalog that keeps you from making a bonehead mistake like the one the Postal Service made. If the image that they chose had been correctly identified and cataloged in the first place they wouldn't have picked a picture of a half-size ripoff of a national icon to put on their stamp.