The Kids Won’t Let Me Burn My Books

October 22, 2010

Daddy: Please don’t burn the books. Then there won’t be any books in the house and I kind of like them.

Some folks dined recently with Ross Dawson. Dawson apparently wrote his future-of-publishing-themed blog entry while dining. Here’s a snippet:

A critical issue is the physical space that books take. Some have tried to get rid of all the book (sic) in their house, but find that their children then don’t have books around them and are looking for them. Others recognize that their extensive home libraries are a ‘wank’ in that their primary function is to impress visitors.

Copyright 1971 by James Broom-Lynne

Copyright 1971 by James Broom-Lynne

Hmm. While Anthony Powell famously wrote that “Books Do Furnish a Room,” my books have a more functional role. I read them.

Computer Furniture

Attractive Computer Furniture

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The Library of the Future: Occasional Thoughts 1

October 17, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about libraries.

To think about the library of the future you must start with an appreciation of libraries today. That appreciation must be derived from being an active customer of libraries — you don’t qualify if you don’t regularly borrow books and other physical (analog) materials. You also don’t qualify if you fail to take advantage of the great online services from your local public library and every other library you have access to (1).


Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Copyright 2010 by Thad McIlroy

So this is not an insider’s look at the library of the future and not necessarily the view a librarian might have. I’ll be considering librarians’ perspectives: I respect them a great deal. But just as active readers are often more interesting than publishers when considering the future of publishing, so too are active library users uniquely qualified to consider what they want from their libraries next year or a decade from now.

I’m not interested here in armchair theorists who last used a library when they were 12 years old. Libraries are living, breathing, changing organisms in the future of publishing ecosphere. We must live among the living.

OK. So you’re a civilian, not a library soldier. You care about the future of libraries because you care about culture and/or entertainment, education and community. You care because you know that libraries have always been a place to go to try to understand the complex world that you find yourself a part of. You care because you marvel that somewhere, some time, we deemed that the commons would include resources in published form (2).

So you have good reason to be interested in the library of the future.

Next you might look at how they evolved to where they are today. That’s important. We see clearly in the United States today the truth of the simple dictum: “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” (3). Let’s not make this mistake when thinking about the future of libraries.

Then you might look outward at the broad publishing trends covered on my site.

You’ll get a first glimpse of the library of the future.

I’ll conclude this first entry with a quotation from Stephen Ramsay (4):

How do you tell when the person addressing a group of librarians is not a librarian? Easy. He or she will, as surely as day follows night, make a reference to the Library of Alexandria.(5)(6)

To be continued.


1. By “every other library you have access to” I’m thinking every other library you can access while NOT paying specifically for that access. (If you specifically pay for access I believe it’s an “information service” not a library, in the way that “library” is most commonly used.)

College and university students have access to libraries that are a part of the institution they pay (or paid) to attend. I don’t have that access (other than limited physical access to local institutional libraries). I, however, am a member of the ACM — Association for Computing Machinery — the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. It has a superb digital library which I frequently access.

2. Intended in the broad sense that I use the word “publishing” on this site.

3. If you go to a library you can learn all about the origins of this quotation. It has a rich history. Or you can just search online. Try it. I bet you’ll wish you had a librarian at your side who could help you avoid wasting too much time on political web sites appropriating the quotation to justify their interpretation of history. You just want to know who first said it. That George Santayana never said it does not tell you who did.

4. Stephen Ramsay is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Fellow at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. “He spends most of his time writing about Digital Humanities and designing and building text technologies for humanist scholars.”

5. If you read the full article that this quotation is taken from you will see both why librarians are marvellous and also why they may not be the first ones we should go to to ask about the future of libraries.

6. I’m not sure why the quotation appeals to me other than it reminds me of a thought I’ve had about people who comment on books and publishing. Whenever I encounter words to the effect of “the most important development since Gutenberg invented the printing press” I know I can change the channel. Although a Google search of “Gutenberg invented the printing press”(in quotation marks) offers 412 citations, the first printing press was invented in China in 593 A.D. Johannes Gutenberg invented the first metal movable-type printing system in Europe, many years later. Perhaps this knowledge should disqualify me from commenting on the future of publishing. However it’s my blog; I’ll comment if I want to.

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Flash vs. HTML 5: The Early Years

October 14, 2010

The future of Adobe’s Flash format is murky. I first glanced at Flash technology’s murk when Steve Jobs launched an attack last April. Jobs stated that “Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice…. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.”

Jobs pointed to HTML5, a W3C proposed standard, as the preferred alternative. The W3C released a new working draft of HTML5 on October 12. The development work is continuing at a near-feverish pace (by W3C standards of developing standards).

HTML5 is hot. In a May blog entry I covered Scribd’s dramatic commitment to HTML5 in lieu of Flash.

In September Computerworld offered:

The W3C is investigating the possibility of incorporating voice recognition and speech synthesis interfaces within Web pages. A new incubator group will file a report a year from now summarizing the feasibility of adding voice and speech features into HTML, the W3C’s standard for rendering Web pages. AT&T, Google, Microsoft and the Mozilla Foundation, among others, all have engineers participating in this effort.

html5-affect-seoSource: Varologic SEO Blog

But not all the news is positive. ZDNet reported this week that Facebook found that Flash still outperforms HTML5 for video on mobile devices (albeit modestly), “a zinger of sorts” in the Flash war.

And InfoWorld found a W3C official who stated that despite the hype, the HTML5 specification isn’t yet ready due to interoperability issues.

I guess I’m just the show-me tech guy. Here’s all I know about the technical limitations of Flash:



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The Dumbest Publishing Startup of 2010

October 11, 2010

You thought you dislike online banner advertising? Perhaps you’ve even installed software like Ad Annihilator, Adblock Pro or Super Ad Blocker to block banner ads from appearing. Or, more likely, you’ve trained yourself to just filter them out, to generally ignore these intrusive ads.

Do not despair. Now you can renounce your bad habits and regain the consumer karma that you lost. The just-announced AdKeeper lets consumers click to save online ads. Yippee. Now you can see them whenever you’re thinking, “Boy, I sure wish I could look just at online ads and avoid all that pesky web site content.”


Or, as the company press release states, AdKeeper is:

…a transformative online advertising service that will forever change the way consumers interact with the Internet. With one simple click of a button, consumers can place ads of their choice into their personal ‘Keeper™,” offering them absolute control to save, sort, sift, share, rank, review, click, print and buy online from ads they have specifically selected… One Click. Kept. Period.

And here you thought the business world ground to a halt on Columbus Day. (Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving today, and now they’ve got one more thing to be thankful for.)

AdKeeper is founded by Scott Kurnit, self-declared as “one of the nation’s most successful online media entrepreneurs.” He’s also the founder of, the web site that continues to prove that superficial, badly-written and inaccurate information can make money in these still-nascent days of the Web.

Strangely the advisory board of AdKeeper includes some strong players, including John Battelle, Jeremy Allaire and Esther Dyson. Their presence makes me wonder if I’m missing something here: maybe there’s a benefit to mankind to be able to keep ads nearby, like old teddy bears or childhood photos.

Until I figure it out I’m calling AdKeeper “The Dumbest Publishing Startup of 2010.”


Update, March 6, 2011

According to MediaPost Volvo will be one of the first advertisers to use the AdKeeper button, starting next week.

A video on the AdKeeper site provides a straightforward explanation of AdKeeper’s straightforward value proposition. Advertising on the Internet, it says, has been modeled on television, while it would have been better to have modeled it on print. With print some consumers like to clips ads for later reference. Now it’s possible on the Web.

Of course it has always been simple to save ads in GIF, JPEG, PNG and other 2D-only formats. Only Flash-based ads are difficult to capture. AdKeeper adds metrics to this practice.

Stay tuned.

(According to the AdKeeper site, the current #1 kept advertisement is for Wendy’s Bold New Asiago Ranch Chicken Club: “Wendy’s new Asiago Ranch Chicken Club. Tender, juicy chicken breast fillet topped with Applewood Smoked Bacon, aged Asiago cheese and a creamy ranch sauce. Available in spicy, grilled or homestyle.” Yum.)

Update, June 27, 2011

A balanced report in The New York Times, which demonstrates, among other things, how to reduce 45 minutes of my blather into a two-sentence pithy quote.

February 20, 2014: Adage: “What You Can Learn From Adkeeper’s Epic Fail (And Pivot)”

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Google Converses With Me

October 2, 2010

Back in July I noticed that Google’s gmail SAS (software-as-a-service) enjoys chatting with me about spam.

Tonight I found it reading my mail just as I was sending it:


I think it’s becoming just a little too intimate (although it did help prevent a “senior moment”).

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