Ellery Queen mysteries on sale

roman_hatToday only, Open Road Media is having a $1.99 sale on several Ellery Queen mysteries.

The seven titles on sale are:

The sale prices are good today, Monday January 16, 2017, and are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google and Apple.

Related Note: While not on sale, The Ellery Queen Jr. Mystery Stories are available here on Amazon and can be read for free in the Kindle Unlimited program.


Barnes & Noble recalls the new $50 NOOK tablet

nook_recallFriday,  it was reported the Barnes & Noble had pulled the tablet from its stores, both physical and online. Supposedly, the recall is due to three faulty chargers. according to an article on Android Police, the company is seeking an alternate source for the charging adapter. In the meantime, the device can be charged via USB.

When Barnes & Noble first released its new $50 NOOK tablet last November, it seemed like it could be a viable alternative to the $50 Fire tablet by Amazon. The initial promise of the cheap tablet that included Google services seemed like a product that could put Barnes & Noble back as a contender in the ereader game.

However, the discovery of the ADUPS malware was included in the tablet software was a major misstep for the company’s new tablet direction. Conflicting reports about whether the firmware had been updated and claims of other exploits didn’t help the situation.

Friday,  it was reported the Barnes & Noble had pulled the tablet from its stores, both physical and online. Supposedly, the recall is due to three faulty chargers. according to an article on Android Police, the company is seeking an alternate source for the charging adapter. In the meantime, the device can be charged via USB.

Oddly, a link for the tablet still shows on the main NOOK page, but is unavailable on the product page.

I have the feeling there is more to come here….

The challenge facing libraries in an era of fake news


Written by Donald A. Barclay, University of California, Merced

Imagine, for a moment, the technology of 2017 had existed on Jan. 11, 1964 – the day Luther Terry, surgeon general of the United States, released “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States.”

What would be some likely scenarios?

The social media noise machine explodes; conservative websites immediately paint the report as a nanny-government attack on personal freedom and masculinity; the report’s findings are hit with a flood of satirical memes, outraged Facebook posts, attack videos and click-bait fake news stories; Big Tobacco’s publicity machine begins pumping out disinformation via both popular social media and pseudoscientific predatory journals willing to print anything for a price; Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater characterizes “Smoking and Health” a “communist-inspired hoax.”

Eventually, the Johnson administration distances itself from the surgeon general’s controversial report.

Of course none of the above actually occurred. While Big Tobacco spent decades doing all that it could to muddy the waters on the health impacts of smoking, in the end scientific fact triumphed over corporate fiction.

Today, thanks to responsible science and the public policies it inspired, only 15 percent of adults in the United States smoke, down from 42.4 percent in 1965.

One might ask: Would it have been possible to achieve this remarkable public health victory had today’s social media environment of fake news and information echo chambers existed in 1964?

Maybe not. As a long-time academic librarian, I have spent a good part of my career teaching college students to think critically about information. And the fact is that I watch many of them struggle with the challenges of discovering, internalizing, evaluating and applying credible information. For me, the recent spate of stories about large segments of the population falling for fake news stories was no surprise.

Making sense of information is hard, maybe increasingly so in today’s world. So what role have academic libraries played in helping people make sense of world bursting at the seams with information?

History of information literacy

Since the 19th century, academic librarians have been actively engaged in teaching students how to negotiate increasingly complex information environments.

Evidence exists of library instruction dating back to the 1820s at Harvard University. Courses on using libraries emerged at a number of colleges and universities after the Civil War. Until well into the 20th century, however, academic librarians largely gave library building tours, and their instruction was aimed at mastery of the local card catalog.

Beginning in the 1960s, academic librarians experienced a broadening of their role in instruction. This broadening was inspired by a number of factors: increases in the sheer size of academic library collections; the emergence of such technologies as microfilm, photocopiers and even classroom projection; and such educational trends as the introduction of new majors and emphasis on self-directed learning.

An elementary school librarian in the 1980s. theunquietlibrarian, CC BY-NC

The new instructional role of academic librarians was notably reflected in the coining of the phrase “information literacy” in 1974 by Paul G. Zurkowski, then president of the Information Industry Association.

Rather than being limited to locating items in a given library, information literacy recognized that students needed to be equipped with skills required to identify, organize and cite information. More than that, it focused on the ability to critically evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of information sources.

Changes in a complex world

In today’s digital world, information literacy is a far more complex subject than it was when the phrase was coined. Back then, the universe of credible academic information was analog and (for better or worse) handpicked by librarians and faculty.

Students’ information hunting grounds was effectively limited to the campus library, and information literacy amounted to mastering a handful of relatively straightforward skills, such as using periodical indexes and library catalogs, understanding the difference between primary and secondary sources of information, and distinguishing between popular and scholarly books and journals.

Today, the situation is far more nuanced. And not just because of the hyperpartisan noise of social media.

Thirty or 40 years ago, a student writing a research paper on the topic of acid rain might have needed to decide whether an article from a scientific journal like Nature was a more appropriate source than an article from a popular magazine like Time.

Today’s students, however, must know how to distinguish between articles published by genuine scholarly journals and those churned out by look-alike predatory and fake journals that falsely claim to be scholarly and peer-reviewed.

This is a far trickier proposition.

Further complicating the situation is the relativism of the postmodern philosophy underpinning much of postmodern scholarly thinking. Postmodernism rejects the notion that concepts such as truth and beauty exist as absolutes that can be revealed through the work of creative “authorities” (authors, painters, composers, philosophers, etc.).

While postmodernism has had such positive effects as opening up the literary canon beyond the writings of the proverbial “dead white males,” it has simultaneously undermined the concept of authority. If, as postmodernist philosophy contends, truth is constructed rather than given, what gives anyone the right to say one source of information is credible and another is not?

Further complicating the situation are serious questions surrounding the legitimacy of mainstream scholarly communication. In addition to predatory and fake journals, recent scandals include researchers faking results, fraudulent peer review and the barriers to conducting and publishing replication studies that seek to either verify or disprove earlier studies.

So, what’s the future?

In such an environment, how is a librarian or faculty member supposed to respond to a bright student who sincerely asks, “How can you say that a blog post attacking GMO food is less credible than some journal article supporting the safety of GMO food? What if the journal article’s research results were faked? Have the results been replicated? At the end of the day, aren’t facts a matter of context?”

How can students be trained to be information-literate? Mary Woodard, CC BY-NC-ND

In recognition of a dynamic and often unpredictable information landscape and a rapidly changing higher education environment in which students are often creators of new knowledge rather than just consumers of information, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) launched its Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, the first revision to the ACRL’s standards for information literacy in over 15 years.

The framework recognizes that information literacy is too nuanced to be conceived of as a treasure hunt in which information resources neatly divide into binary categories of “good” and “bad.”

Notably, the first of the framework’s six subsections is titled “Authority Is Constructed and Contextual” and calls for librarians to approach the notions of authority and credibility as dependent on the context in which the information is used rather than as absolutes.

This new approach asks students to put in the time and effort required to determine the credibility and appropriateness of each information source for the use to which they intend to put it.

For students this is far more challenging than either a) simply accepting authority without question or b) rejecting all authority as an anachronism in a post-truth world. Formally adopted in June 2016, the framework represents a way forward for information literacy.

While I approve of the direction taken by the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, I do not see it as the ultimate solution to the information literacy challenge. Real progress in information literacy will require librarians, faculty and administrators working together.

Indeed, it will require higher education, as well as secondary and primary education, to make information literacy a priority across the curriculum. Without such concerted effort, a likely outcome could be a future of election results and public policies based on whatever information – credible or not – bubbles to the top of the social media noise machine.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.  Reposted under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

Scribd says goodbye to comics

comics-999504_1920Yesterday,  Nate from The Digital Reader reported that subscription service Scribd has removed comic books from its services. According to the article, Scribd confirmed the deletion in a statement, noting that few users had taken advantage of the comics content. They also said that they had notified comics readers via email in early December.

Now, while I am not a comics reader, I am a Scribd subscriber and can testify to the fact that I certainly did not receive any notice of changes to the service. And while I hadn’t read any comics through the service, as a customer, I would have at least expected to be notified of that significant of a change to its catalog.

Over the past several years, Scribd has made several adjustments to their all-you-can-read subscription service. The service removed the lion’s share of romance novels, decreased the number of audiobooks and finally went to a limited credit system with a rotating selection of free content. The sum total of these changes left many customers extremely dissatisfied.

There are several aspects to this change that are particularly disturbing. First and foremost is the lack of communication on Scribd’s part. One cannot help but wonder if Scribd was hoping to slide the change in under the radar of its main bulk of subscribers. Scribd faced a huge amount of public blowback over the previous paring down of its service. Scribd itself acknowledged that the the comics selection was underutilized. I also suspect  that comics readers may be a lot like romance readers in the amount of content that they consume. They may have decided it was more beneficial to the bottom line to alienate a smaller section of their customer base to save money.

I always get concerned when companies stop communicating. In the past, Scribd was fairly actively engaged in keeping contents updated on its blog. Currently, Scribd has two blogs. The main blog, geared towards customer announcements, is seldom updated. The other blog, called Literally, is penned by Scribd’s editors and features reviews, recommendations, quizzes, essays, and other reading related contents (and is also more frequently updated). There was no mention of the comics issue that I could find on either blog.

Scribd’s actions certainly leave its comics readers in the lurch. It also raises questions about the long-term solvency of Scribd itself as a subscription service. What seems clear is that Scribd has once again decreased its offerings and is  offering less content for the same price. That’s certainly a decrease in perceptive value to its customers and potential subscribers.

Personally, I use Scribd predominantly for ebooks (and the occasional audiobook). Most of the books I use the service for are books that either cost more than I am willing to pay and/or are unavailable at the library. Since I also buy books, use the library and to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, even reading one or two books on the service a month is worth the cost for me. However, the company lost a lot of trust with their customers with their previous heavy-handed changes to the catalog. Not openly communicating with their customers certainly doesn’t help that trust issue. While I am not unsubscribing (yet), I sure don’t  see myself purchasing a long-term subscription at this rate.

How about you? What do you think?

NOTE: See my article Free Digital Comics and Graphic Novels for sources of free comics.

What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2017?

Reposted from Duke University website for the Center for the Study of the Public Domain:      

Works that could have entered the public domain on January 1, 2017

Under the law that existed until 1978 . . . Works from 1960

The books To Kill a Mockingbird and Rabbit, Run, the films The Magnificent Seven and The Time Machine, and more. . .

Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1960 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2017, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2056.1 And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in other countries are different—thousands of works are entering the public domain in Canada and the EU on January 1.

Born Free

What books would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below.

  • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • John Updike, Rabbit, Run
  • Joy Adamson, Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds
  • William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
  • Friedrich A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty
  • Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties
  • Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Politics of Upheaval: The Age of Roosevelt
  • Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
  • Scott O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor
  • Jean-Paul Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique
The books above are but a fraction of what would be entering the public domain on January 1. Imagine them being freely available to students and teachers around the world. Readers interested in iconic stories of courage in the face of racial injustice, or middle class America in the late 1950s, or just great literature, would have something to celebrate. In the current political climate, Shirer’s work, and also those of Hayek, Bell, and Schlesinger, might provide food for thought. And Dr. Seuss’s beloved books would be legally available for free online for children (of all ages).

You would be free to use these books in your own stories, adapt them for theater, animate them, or make them into a film. You could translate them into other languages, or create accessible Braille or audio versions.2 You could read them online or buy cheaper print editions, because others were free to republish them. Empirical studies have shown that public domain books are less expensive, available in more editions and formats, and more likely to be in print—see here, here, and here. Take, for example, The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater—like the works listed above, it was published in 1960; but unlike those works, it’s in the public domain because the copyright was not renewed. You can legally download it for free, and the purchase price for an eBook is $0.99, instead of $10 or $20.

Imagine a digital Library of Alexandria containing all of the world’s books from 1960 and earlier, where, thanks to technology, you can search, link, annotate, copy and paste. (Google Books has brought us closer to this reality, but for copyrighted books where there is no separate agreement with the copyright holder, it only shows three short snippets, not the whole book.) Instead of seeing these literary works enter the public domain in 2017, we will have to wait until 2056.

The Frozen-in-Time Machine

Consider the films and television shows from 1960 that would have become available this year. Fans could share clips with friends or incorporate them into homages. Local theaters could show the full features. Libraries and archivists would be free to digitize and preserve them. Here are a few of the movies that we won’t see in the public domain for another 39 years.

  • The Time Machine
  • Psycho
  • Spartacus
  • Exodus
  • The Apartment
  • Inherit the Wind
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Ocean’s 11
  • The Alamo
  • The Andy Griffith Show (first episodes)
  • The Flintstones (first episodes)

These works are famous, so thanks to projects like the National Film Registry, we’re not likely to lose them entirely. The true tragedy is that of forgotten films that are literally disintegrating while preservationists wait for their copyright terms to expire.3

It’s Now or . . . 2056?

What 1960 music could you have used without fear of a lawsuit? If you wanted to find guitar tabs or sheet music and freely use some of the great music from this year, January 1, 2017 would have been a rocking day for you under earlier copyright laws. Elvis Presley’s hit song It’s Now or Never (Wally Gold, Aaron Schroeder) would be available. So would Only the lonely (know the way I feel) (Roy Orbison, Joe Melson), Save the Last Dance for Me (Mort Shuman, Jerome Pomus), and Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (Paul J. Vance, Lee Pockriss). Your school would be free to stage public performances of the songs from the musical Camelot (Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe). Or you could set a video to Harry Belafonte’s Grizzly Bear (Harry Belafonte, Robert DeCormier, Milt Okun) from Swing Dat Hammer. Today, these musical works remain copyrighted until 2056.4

Science from 1960—copyrighted research, still behind paywalls

1960 was another significant year for science. Max Perutz and Sir John Kendrew published articles on the structure of hemoglobin and the structure of myoglobin, respectively, and Robert Burns Woodward published an article describing a total synthesis of chlorophyll. (All three later won Nobel Prizes in Chemistry.) Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first working laser, a ruby laser. And the US launched its first successful weather satellite, TIROS-1.

If you follow the links above (and you do not have a subscription or institutional access), you will see that these 1960 articles are still behind paywalls. You can purchase the individual articles from the journal Nature for $32. A distressing number of scientific articles from 1960 require payment or a subscription or account, including those in major journals such as Science and JAMA. And the institutional access that many top scientists enjoy is not guaranteed—even institutions such as Harvard have considered canceling their subscriptions because they could no longer afford the escalating prices of major journal subscriptions.

It’s remarkable to find scientific research from 1960 hidden behind publisher paywalls. Thankfully, some publishers have made older articles available in full online, so that you can read them, even though it may still be illegal to copy and distribute them. In addition, some older articles have been made available on third party websites, but this is not a stable solution for providing reliable access to science. Third party postings can be difficult to find or taken down, links can get broken, and would-be posters may be deterred by the risk of a lawsuit. Under the pre-1978 copyright term, all of this history would be free to scholars, students, and enthusiasts.

Not all scientific publishers work under this kind of copyright scheme. “Open Access” scientific publications, like those of the Public Library of Science, are under Creative Commons licenses, meaning that they can be copied freely from the day they are published.

Works from 1988!

Most of the works highlighted here are famous—that is why we included them. And if that fame meant that the work was still being exploited commercially 28 years after its publication, the rights holders would probably renew the copyright. But we know from empirical studies that 85% of authors did not renew their copyrights (for books, the number is even higher—93% did not renew), since most works exhaust their commercial value very quickly.

Under the law that existed until 1978 . . . Up to 85% of all copyrighted works from 1988 might have been entering the public domain on January 1, 2017.

That means that all of these examples from 1960 are only the tip of the iceberg. If the pre-1978 laws were still in effect, we could have seen 85% of the works published in 1988 enter the public domain on January 1, 2017. Imagine what that would mean to our archives, our libraries, our schools and our culture. Such works could be digitized, preserved, and made available for education, for research, for future creators. Instead, they will remain under copyright for decades to come, perhaps even into the next century.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the current copyright term is that in most cases, the cultural harm is not offset by any benefit to an author or rights holder. Unlike the famous works highlighted here, the vast majority of works from 1960 do not retain commercial value,5 but they are presumably off limits to users who do not want to risk a copyright lawsuit. This means that no one is benefiting from continued copyright, while the works remain both commercially unavailable and culturally off limits. The public loses the possibility of meaningful access for no good reason. You can read more about the current costs associated with orphan works—works that are still presumably under copyright, but with no identifiable or locatable copyright holder—here and here. Importantly, the US Copyright Office has been engaged in efforts to find solutions to the orphan works problem. However, unlike other countries, the US has not enacted any such solutions.

1 The copyright term for works published between 1950 and 1963 was extended to 95 years from the date of publication, so long as the works were published with a copyright notice and the term renewed (which is generally the case with famous works such as those we are highlighting).
Many works published in 1960 are already in the public domain because the copyright holder did not comply with notice, renewal, or other copyright formalities. However, tracking down this information can be difficult (you can read just one of many illustrative examples collected by the Copyright Office here). Therefore, users often have to presume these works are copyrighted or risk a lawsuit (only works published before 1923 are conclusively in the public domain). You can read more about copyright terms from this excellent chart and from the US Copyright Office’s guide.
It is also difficult to determine whether foreign works are in the public domain in the U.S. Generally speaking, as a result of international agreements, foreign works published after 1923 are still under copyright in the US as long as one of the following is true: they were published in compliance with US formalities, they were still copyrighted in their home countries as of 1996, or they were then published in the US within 30 days of publication abroad. You can learn more about copyright terms for foreign works from the Copyright Office guide here.

2 If you think publishers have not objected to this, you would be wrong. US copyright law has an exception that allows books to be reproduced in accessible formats, but this exception only applies to “authorized entities”—nonprofits or governmental agencies with a primary mission related to providing such services.

3 The law allows libraries and archives (not preservationists generally) to digitize works during the last 20 years of their copyright term, but only in limited circumstances: the library or archive first has to determine through a “reasonable investigation” that the work is not being commercially exploited and that they cannot obtain another copy of it at a reasonable price.

4 Under federal law at the time, these “musical compositions”—the music and lyrics—were subject to copyright, but the particular “sound recordings” embodying the musical compositions were not; federal copyright did not cover sound recordings until 1972. (Pre-1972 sound recordings are protected under some states’ laws.) So, for example, the musical composition “It’s Now or Never” written by Wally Gold and Aaron Schroeder would be federally copyrighted, but not Elvis Presley’s particular sound recording of that composition.

5 A Congressional Research Service study indicated that only 2% of works between 55 and 75 years old continue to retain commercial value. As explained above, many works from 1960 are technically in the public domain, but it is often difficult to conclusively determine public domain status, so users have to presume that they’re still under copyright.

Creative Commons LicenseThe Public Domain Day 2017 web pages by Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.