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Other posts by David Rothman

Jim Duncan, Colorado Library Consortium executive director, speaks out in series on public libraries and the Digital Public Library of America
October 29, 2013 | 4:14 pm

Jim Duncan, executive director of the Colorado Library ConsortiumWhat kind of national digital library system---or systems, plural---should the U.S. create? Read Parts One and Two of a new series where Jim Duncan, executive director of the Colorado Library Consortium delves into the major issues. Is the Harvard-incubated Digital Public Library of America the solution with its “one big tent” approach for public and academic libraries? With museums even included? Or do we need intertwined but separate public and academic systems, so literacy issues, K-12 needs, related digital divide matters, and other national concerns do not fall through the cracks? Could a national digital library endowment, started mostly with philanthropic donations...

Family literacy and K-12 success: How a well-stocked public e-library system for the U.S. could help our students catch up with ‘The Smartest Kids in the World’
October 21, 2013 | 5:48 pm

smartestkidsvideoAmanda Ripley, who has written on education for Time Magazine and the Atlantic, is out with a new book that might upset some traditional PTA stalwarts and other boosters of after-school activities if they don’t pick up the nuances about literacy here. No, Ms. Ripley, a fellow at the New American Foundation, isn’t anti-PTA. She appreciates “the contributions” that a local PTA chapter can make to a “school's culture, budget, and sense of community." But in The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way (video here), she asks whether American mothers and fathers shouldn’t increase time for another activity---enjoying...

First all-digital public library system a hit in Bexar County, Texas—with hundreds of e-reader gizmos and an eager young crew to explain them
October 20, 2013 | 1:11 pm

bibliotechLast year LibraryCity.org knocked the library system in Rockford, Illinois, for planning to spend around a quarter of its $1.19-million collection budget on e-books. A third of Rockfordians were living below the poverty line in 2009 by one estimate. And yet the local library initially wanted to start out with just 50 Kindle e-readers---hardly the best solution for people too poor or technophobic to buy and use e-book devices. The local NAACP and other groups yelled foul, just as they should have. So what’s happening down in Bexar County, Texas? BiblioTech, the world’s first all-digital public library system, opened there September 14...

How to get the most out of library ebooks via the right gadget, text to speech, and otherwise
October 18, 2013 | 6:26 pm

FireVergeWant to hear text to speech from free library ebooks on your 50-mile commute? Even if you own an Android machine and the usual OverDrive app can’t do “read-aloud” unless audiobooks count? Also, what if you haven’t even bought an e-reading gizmo for library use, but want to? Which model to go with? In those cases and others, the guidance here is for you. Most tips will work even with low-cost, no-name tablets. But let’s pay special attention to the new Kindle Fire HDXes. They are among the top choices if you care more about reading than about tech and can stomach...

Ouch! Text to speech is also AWOL from this year’s Amazon Paperwhite
September 3, 2013 | 4:18 pm

Amazon PaperwhiteDrat! The newest Kindle Paperwhite E Ink reader from Amazon is still missing text to speech—among the features Jeff Bezos touted when he unveiled the second Kindle in 2009. Doubt me? Just look at the Paperwhite users guide and see what’s AWOL. Click here for a better view, with a list of not-overlooked improvements in the newer Paperwhite model. It’s to start shipping Sept. 30. Like the first Paperwhite, the basic version will sell for $119 and up, and supposedly the newer PWs will offer “higher contrast” between text and background. I found last year’s Paperwhites to be still somewhat lacking in contrast despite a noticeable improvement over earlier models. On...

The DPLA and the risks of gentrifying America’s public libraries
August 29, 2013 | 9:26 pm

DPLAJim Duncan, now executive director of the Colorado Librarian Consortium, offered some needed candor about the Digital Public Library of America for NPR reporter Laura Sydell’s August 19 segment on the DPLA. The reaction from certain NPR commenters online? Nasty bashing of Duncan and other public librarians. One listener, for example, accused public librarians of "hopping on board the ‘library patrons only read trash and would rather make this a rec center’ train.” Now back to reality. Duncan himself used to be an academic librarian, and he hopes that the DPLA will succeed hugely and offer a wealth of cultural and historical riches, in line with his...

E-Books and the Miami-Dade Library Crisis: One way to help thwart the misers
August 28, 2013 | 1:19 pm

libraryAll of Miami-Dade’s library branches will remain open, apparently, despite Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez's earlier talk about closing 22 branches in the Miami-Dade system. But 169 librarians will lose their jobs, and hours will shrink under his newer plan if this foolishness becomes reality. The public uproar against Gimenez’s stinginesss goes on. Please join more than 5,000 library fans in "liking" the Save the Miami-Dade Public Libraries page on Facebook, no matter where you live. Might greater reliance on e-books and other digital content end the crisis instantly? Of course not. Even now, it isn’t as if the Miami-Dade system has ignored all the possibilities. Still, according to...

Free ePub Book Shows Potential of Local Librarians as Content-Providers (Video)
August 16, 2013 | 3:28 pm

librariansWhale Bombings, Pearl Harbor and Other Stories Enliven Q&A with Now-Dead Airman * * * Some unlucky whales died in certain stretches of the Pacific because inexperienced U.S. airmen mistook the long shapes in the water for Japanese submarines. More than a few offbeat recollections of this kind liven up an extended interview with the late Attilio F. Caporiccio, a B-17 crewman before and during World War II. The Q&A is now a free ePub book licensed under Creative Commons; just click on the link to download it. "Cappy" also recalled seeing the faces of Japanese pilots attacking Hickam Field—next to the Pearl Harbor naval base—because...

Smart Move: The Graham’s spin-off of The Washington Post
August 6, 2013 | 9:30 am

The Washington PostJack Shafer, the Reuters columnist, wrote last year that Graham family should spin off the Washington Post newspaper from the company of the same name. As the buyer he suggested Michael Bloomberg. “Not so crazy an idea,” I said on the Solomon Scandals site and in the Georgetown Dish. Now the spin-off will become a reality, except that the billionaire is instead Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (photo), who is buying the Post personally rather than for his company. The Grahams will keep some publications. But not the flagship paper itself. The price of $250 million might have seemed shockingly low once, but not today, when the Post isn’t...

New version of Voice Dream—first-rate program for reading e-books aloud
August 2, 2013 | 7:25 pm

Voice DreamA new incarnation of the Voice Dream text-to-speech program—for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch—hit the Apple app store recently. My original Voice Dream review is here. Price is $9.99, still worth every penny. Winston Chen, the app's developer, has made good on his promise to offer a paging option, so that you don’t have to scroll, Web-browser fashion, if you’re reading an e-book by sight. The downside of the beta version was that if you made annotations, Voice Dream lapsed back into its scrolling made. As far as I can tell—and maybe I’m wrong—that bug is gone from the current version, 2.8.2. Now I’m hoping...

Obama speech and PTA-Amazon alliance validate LibraryCity’s K-12 priorities
June 19, 2013 | 3:30 pm

PTA-AmazonK-12 led my list of priorities in the 1990s for a well-stocked national digital library system blended in with local schools and libraries. Along the way, I suggested that Washington nudge Silicon Valley to come up with affordable iPad-style devices with high-resolution color screens and multimedia capabilities. Originally called TeleRead, this vision has evolved since my 1992 Computerworld article, but a major constant has remained, among others—the need to make it affordable, easy, and enticing for K-12 students and their parents to read books. That must have been on Al Gore’s mind, too, when he called for the digitization of the Library of Congress. Now let’s...

On Jillian the Tiger Cub and the Power of the American Ego
May 22, 2013 | 2:15 pm

Never underestimate the power and glory of the American ego. Granted, it can show its bizarre sides—for example, in the antics and hairdo of Donald Trump. And yet I see the good, too. We have the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the rest, not “Library Donors Anonymous.” At least some might bristle at this quest for publicity and immortality, as opposed to pure altruism. But let’s remember that despite all the government-and-corporate-enforced conformity around us, we are still in many ways a nation of individualists. Didn’t Walt Whitman title a poem "Song of Myself," notwithstanding such lines as...