Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Latest on Google Books

I have commented here on Google Books and the recent the recent settlement of the lawsuit brought on by the AAP and the Author's Guild against Google Books, particularly with respect to an article in The New York Times Book Review by Robert Darnton, the director of Harvard's Library, who claims that the settlement makes Google the largest book publisher and distributor in the world. While this is still debatable, the amount of literary turf appropriated by Google as a result of this settlement is enormous, even as the exact dimensions will continue to be mapped.

There is a synopsis of the effect in the current (and hopelessly irregular) Google Librarian Newsletter, but I'll highlight here:

- Expanded access to millions of in-copyright books:
The agreement dramatically expands the reach of Book Search Library Partners<> by enabling readers across the U.S. to preview<>millions of in-copyright out-of-print books preserved in their collections. Readers will be able to search these books through Google Book Search and where previously they have only been able to view bibliographic information and a few snippets of text from the book, they will be able to view a limited preview (up to 20%) of the book to find out
if it suits their needs.

- Free online viewing of books at U.S. public and university libraries:
Through this agreement, public libraries, community colleges, and universities across the U.S. will be able to provide free full-text reading to books housed in great libraries of the world like Stanford, California, Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan. A newly-created Public Access Service license will allow full-text viewing of millions of out-of-print books to readers who visit library facilities. Public libraries will be eligible to receive one free Public Access Service license for a computer located on-site at each of their library buildings in the United States. Non-profit, higher education institutions will be eligible to receive free Public Access Service licenses for on-site computers, the exact number of which will depend on the number of students enrolled.

- Institutional subscriptions to millions of additional books:

Imagine never having to ask a patron to wait until a book is returned or arrives through interlibrary loan. Beyond the free license described above, libraries will also be able to purchase an institutional subscription to millions of books covered by the settlement agreement. Once purchased, this subscription will allow a library to offer patrons access to the incredible collections of Google's library partner when they are in the library itself as well as when they access it remotely.

- Services for People with Print Disabilities:

One of the advantages digitization presents is the opportunity to enable greater accessibility to
books. Through the agreement, the visually impaired and print disability community will be able to access millions of in-copyright books through screen enlargement, reader, and Braille display technologies.

- New Research Opportunities with the Creation a Research Corpus:
The vast database of books that Google is digitizing is not just a resource for readers, but also a one-of-a-kind research tool. The agreement allows for the creation of two research centers that will include a copy of almost all of the books digitized by Google. These research centers will enable people to conduct research that utilizes computers to process or analyze the text of the books. Examples of the types of research they will facilitate include automatic translation, analysis of how language has evolved over time, next generation search technology, image processing research and others.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hungry Art

As someone who earns a good chunk of change writing Dog poems, I am obviously a Dog activist and worshiper (remember Dog spelled backwards is God -- this is not a coincidence). God may be dead, but Dog survives. At least mine do. Guillermo Vargas's dog in the art installation "Eres Lo Que Lees" (Códice Gallery in Managua, Nicaragua, August 2007) may not have been so lucky. While there remains controversy about the fate of the dog, it was documented to be extremely sick and emaciated while chained to a gallery wall. Stories conflict as to how long the dog remained there, whether or not it was fed, and other details, although many of the reports/rumors concerning the installation described the object of the piece as deliberately starving a chained dog in an art gallery and noting visitor's reactions. Vargas himself commented that no one attempted to assist or free the dog. His intention in the piece was purportedly to explore how sets of rules and understandings prevent spectators from "interfering" with tragedy, particularly in the case of media (i.e. news photographers snapping photos while an elderly woman is bludgeoned to death) or art museums, where visitors are sternly warned against touching or interacting with most art.

The thought of a dog chained to a sterile gallery wall is bad enough; starving it to death to note visitor reatcion is deplorable. To call the entire experience art however is intriguing, and opens the door on an entire realm of performance/installation art that I feel would be intriguing. Simply stated, it would involve artists chaining themselves to gallery walls and starving themselves to death (I have a list of candidates). Installations could be videotaped, and spectator interaction studied (huge signs warning people against touching or feeding the artists would be posted). What sould be the effect of gagged pleas, urine and fecal-soaked clothes, and the listless, lethargic eyes of death on "sternly warned" viewers? The effect
would certainly transport art into a real life or death arena, and remove it from its current ennui of dillentantism, actualizing the prophetic text of Kafka (The Hunger Artist), or John Hawkes (The Passion Artist). In the words of Professor Suanders Stillet of the Ecole de Baguette whom I often consult with on matters of art, "This type of artistic pursuit would foreground the premise of nihilism and suggest that Derrida’s analysis of dialectic pretextual theory is invalid. In simpler terms, the gradual starvation and death of will is also reflective of the body of the Other in the One, embedded, as it were in the meaninglessness of narrativity, beyond which there is no transgression but the use of capitalist neoconceptualist theory to modify sexual identity, as Debord certainly clarified."

And when it was all over, think of the bones it would provide for Dogz.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Teabag Em

Rachael Maddow recently reported on the new phenomenon she dubbed Teabagging, a conservative (largely Fox News driven) attempt to rile everyone from Storm Front to the average idiot who hates taxes to protest by sending tea bags to everything Democratic, Obama on down. We are assuming they are not referring to the first Wikipedia definition, although who knows. Anyway, teabagging brings to the forefront several extremely relevant issues:

1) Does the type of of tea matter (i.e. green or black)? Can one use Chai?
2) Is this a good time to buy stock in companies who trade and harvest tea?
3) Can one use cream? The first Wikipedia definition would imply yes.
4) and, Do Tea Parties count as Protests, and thus, are the participants Protestors? Because I thought Fox News considered them bad. ??

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon's New Adult Labeling Policy

Amazon, arguably the world's largest book-seller, has made a small change in their classification system which has HUGE ramifications. They recently introduced the category "Adult," for books. Those books categorized Adult will not be ranked, nor will they appear in Best-Seller lists, nor will they appear on many searches, even exact title searches. Nor is there a way to include these titles using the Advanced Search option.

Additionally, the category Adult includes a vast quantity of new LGBT literature, much of which is now being excluded from most Amazon searches. To read more about this very disturbing development check out this Daily Kos post. And voice your concerns to Amazon!