Posts Tagged ‘kindle’

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Research Workflow and Digital Texts

July 13, 2011

I continue to be interested in academic workflows in general, and how digital tools and texts are being incorporated (or not incorporated) into them.  I’ve written up a first draft of an essay on the project I and some colleagues did with Kindles in an English class this past spring, and am currently most struck by the responses of those students who struggled with the immateriality of a digital book.  Some students took to the Kindle like a duck to water, but others (in surveys) wrote of their disorientation within the e-book, because of their ingrained habit of dealing with books as material objects as well as content containers.

Two interesting essays I’ve read recently on this topic are available open-access:

Cull, Barry W., 2011. “Reading revolutions: Online digital text and implications for reading in academe, ” First Monday 16: 6, at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3340/2985

Hillesund, Terje, 2010. “Digital reading spaces: How expert readers handle books, the Web, and electronic paper,” First Monday 15: 4, at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2762/2504

A recent Institute of Classical Studies (London) Digital Classicist Seminar was not specifically focused on reading of digital texts, but took a broader approach to discussing the research practices of academics, and specifically classicists and archaeologists, among others.  Agiatis Benardou spoke on a project that conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 scholars as an attempt to understand their research workflows (as part of planning for a European project to create digital research infrastructure.) I haven’t had the time to listen to the audio of the seminar, which is available as a link, but the introduction, the tweets from the session and the slides available in .pdf all are quite interesting.

It’s a basic principle of librarianship that understanding the patron’s needs is paramount (Ranganathan, “Every reader his book,”), and it’s exciting to see that those developing digital research tools are first seeking to understand user needs and existing practices, before tool development even begins. While we can and do expect user behaviors to change as a result of new technologies – and some of my reluctant Kindle readers will probably figure out a way to feel at home with an e-book as they become more common – it’s also important to know where your users are, and not just where you want them to be going.

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Kindles in Greek Class and Anki Flashcards

June 22, 2011

We’re halfway through the INTENSIVE introductory Greek class I am working with this summer, using Kindles as a supplement to the textbook and as a little experiment to see what resources work on them.  I did a big background round-up of digital texts for Greek in a post a bit ago, and more recently I wrote a little guide to using the Kindles for the students as well.

We decided to ask them to purchase a koine Bible from Amazon, for $2, and we’re doing daily sight-reading from John as a warm-up.  We chose this version because it has an accurate text, with breathing marks and accents (many digital koine texts omit these), and as a bonus it includes the Septuagint and Apocrypha as well.  The professor has also made her personal supplementary notes to the textbook (UGA uses Athenaze) available to the students in .pdf, and has placed additional readings in the course management system (UGA uses eLearning Commons) .pdf as well.

I learned a little more about the nexus of file types, the Kindle, and Greek fonts as we got the class started.  There are two ways to read a .pdf or .doc file on the Kindle. You can read the text in its native format, as a .pdf or .doc, in which case you see the text just as it looks on your computer screen, but it’s tiny, because it fills the Kindle screen which is quite small.  Or you can convert the text to a Kindle format, by emailing it through the Kindle email account and using the word “convert” in the title of your email.  Unfortunately this messes with the formatting a bit, especially if there are tables in the original document, and for this class the documents did contain tables – very natural, when setting out paradigms!  We also had troubles with the Greek coming through okay, especially if we converted .pdf files.  The Kindle v. 3 (small grey one) fully supports Unicode, unlike previous Kindles, but it seems like .pdfs do not necessarily support Unicode Greek.  So, the students in our experiment have straight .pdf files on their Kindles, with very small type, but they are young and hardy – they’ll survive!

A great digital tool for flash cards that unfortunately doesn’t work on the Kindle is Anki software.  It’s free to download to yous computer, and there is an iPod app but it apparently costs $25, and so far none of the students has seemed willing to pay that much.  Once I had the software installed in the computer, I searched for Athenaze in the set of existing flashcard decks and found a deck of cards for the first 6 chapters.  The program gives you a vocab flash card, and you can show yourself the answer when you’re ready and then rate how soon you need to see this card again – from “immediately” for things you don’t know at all, to “never” for stuff that’s deeply in your brain.

Anyone know of other good flashcard programs for smartphones that support Greek (and are inexpensive)?  One of the points of using the Kindle in this class is to give the students a lightweight tool to carry with them at all times, so they can study in odd moments (waiting for the bus, etc.)  It would be great to have a flashcard program for the Kindle, but Kindles are so locked down that it’s unlikely that will be possible.  But most students seem to have smartphones these days…

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End of Semester Wrapup/Madness

May 11, 2011

I am officially finished with spring semester 2011, and hope you are coming to that place too (I know many UGA faculty are still grading like mad – graduation is Friday and non-senior grades aren’t due until Tuesday; some friends elsewhere have been finished for several days now, and people on a quarter system are just chugging along.)

Let’s take a moment to bid farewell to the spring by way of the wackiest exam madness story I heard: Students released 18 chickens and 2 roosters into the Emory Library.  This is hilarious, unless you’re the one who has to clean up after it (or you’re one of the chickens).

I celebrated this morning by resetting 18 Kindles to their factory settings, and just met with my colleague to set up a (fierce!) schedule for drafting the results of this spring’s Kindle experiment.  That’s one of the six projects currently on my summer list; the others include migrating (a lot of) content to a new software, organizing the library’s participation in 26 new student orientation fairs (UGA is a big school; they do orientation all summer), and doing a big push forward on the Ancient World Open Bibliographies project (I should really count that as two or maybe 3 projects by itself).  (Possibly I should also abuse parentheses less.) Summer for librarians is not that different from summer for faculty – that 2 or 3 days of “phew, I’m done!” immediately followed by “okay, here’s what I’ve got to do next.”  Wading in…

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E-Books for Learning Greek

April 4, 2011

I have started looking more seriously at texts for elementary Greek that can be used on the Kindle (and/or other e-book readers), in advance of a possible trial in a class this summer.  Here’s a list of resources I have found useful – do you have any to add? The following include texts available in Kindle format, and texts available as .pdfs – most e-book readers can deal with simply-formatted .pdf files, although their treatment of footnotes or multi-column pages can be, frankly, terrible. I have NOT included online-only texts (as at Perseus, TLG, etc.)

Hathi Trust

  • A scholarly e-book repository, it includes most out-of-copyright works (pre-1923) digitized by Google Books, plus additional titles post-1923 where Hathi staff have worked with publishers and authors to make works available to the public.
  • Search interface is very much like a library online catalog, so it’s easier to find a known title than when searching Google Books.
  • Note one can create a free account and make lists (“public collections“) of texts.  It would be useful to have such a list for important classical works, no?  Maybe in my copious free time (or yours).

Google Books

  • An alphabetical list of works selected by Crane and Babeu – Google Books Ancient Greek and Latin Texts Available as downloadable .pdf files.
  • Ditto, but US-access only. Requires a Google account to log in, and you must be in the US.
  • You can also search Google Books for specific titles, but good luck getting what you want in the first page of results – I’d try Hathi Trust first, myself, as the search interface is more sophisticated.

TextKit

  • Requires creation of an account (free), after which one can download .pdf files.
  • Includes out-of-copyright texts – this site dates to 2001, so the texts were hand-scanned before the advent of Google Books.
  • Greek texts library. There’s also Latin.

Downloebables

  • Best website name ever? Links to downloadable .pdf versions of out-of-copyright editions from the Loeb Classical Libraries.

Project Gutenberg

For purchase at Amazon (prices listed – they are generally modest).

One problem I have run into is that the Kindle cannot convert any documents larger than 25MB, and many .pdf files are larger than this.  The solution is to use Adobe Acrobat and break up the .pdf files into smaller units, which requires a) possession of Adobe Acrobat (the production software, not just the reader) and b) more work on the user end – a lexicon that’s divided into several chunks alphabetically is not as easy to use.

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THATCamp 5: Open-Access, Kindles, Crowdsourcing

March 16, 2011

Okay, if I don’t get more terse we’re never going to get through THATCamp SE.  Day one continued:

At lunch we had “dork shorts” which were timed 3-minute talks on anything anybody wanted to show.  Topics included a documentary about an Atlanta punk band, a blog about rural life which featured a lovely photo of a ca. 1940 man with his pet skunk, and UGA’s <emma> program, used in writing classes, which allows collaborative markup of student papers.

After lunch 1: Open Access Publishing, hosted by me. I was a little thoughtless at 9am and put things on the whiteboard that I thought would make good discussions, forgetting that then I would have to a) attend and b) HOST the discussions.  And people signed up for them!  This was number 1.  It was kind of a general conversation, with several librarians present who had experience hosting open access journals using the Open Journal Systems software (at Duke, GA Tech, and UGA), a grad student who works on the OA journal Southern Spaces at Emory, and a faculty member who edits a major journal that is not open-access.  We talked about business models (Mellon support, departmental support, support by an organization like ATLA), OA in Humanities as opposed to Sciences, and reasons why OA is important (I especially liked the mention of the need to make research accessible to communities being studied, in some fields.)

After lunch 2: My colleague from UGA, Caroline Barratt, and I hosted an intimate conversation about our current project using Kindles for all course readings in an English class.  This was very productive for us – we took a lot of notes about interesting questions to ask when we hold focus groups later this semester – and those present seemed to enjoy it also, with a wide-ranging discussion including practical issues as well as big topics like “what is the book” and “what is reading.”

After lunch 3: Crowdsourcing Digital Humanities Projects; I was hosting again. I was hoping to get advice on how to manage the human side of a project like the Ancient World Open Bibliographies. I was struck by the great diversity of experiences and expertise present at this session.  Participants talked about: a women’s collective project in India, crowdsourcing the transcription of the Cardinal Newman letters at Emory (interestingly, the volunteers were not collected using the internet, but came mostly via newsletters and news articles), open-access software projects, and a project to collaboratively write a latin textbook. We talked about the importance of passion in volunteers (which is why there’s a Wookieepedia) – and how it can’t be artificially created – and, failing passion, the need to “make it fun” or even sneak crowdsourcing into a project (like ReCaptcha).

By this point someone in another session was beginning to tweet about zombies, so the UGA contingent regrouped and headed back to Athens.  I don’t know how anyone had the energy to go out, but  gather some THATCampers continued conversations into the evening.

Previous posts on THATCamp SE:

 

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Kindle Dreams: What I Want in a Scholarly E-Book Reader

February 22, 2011

So, I’ve been using the Kindle and playing with formats and liking it, but I’m now at the point where I’m saying, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”  So here are my ideas about e-book readers for (Classics) scholarship.  Feel free to add your desiderata in comments.

  • I like the dictionary feature – put the cursor next to a word and you get a definition at the bottom of the page.  It would be great to have built-in dictionaries in multiple languages – for a classics scholar you’d want at least French and German, and for archaeologists probably Italian or Modern Greek, as well as the ancient languages.  Basically, like the Perseus built-in dictionary.
  • A way to handle footnotes or endnotes.  Ideally this would be treated in a webby/hypertext way, so you could move the cursor to the footnote and its content would appear discreetly below, the way the dictionary works.  A bare minimum would be structuring the texts so footnotes appear at the end of each page (and adjust if you change font sizes), or if end notes are a must, there should be way to easily flip back and forth between the page and its associated note.
  • A less slow/clunky way to highlight and annotate in the text.  The Kindle (I have the new one, I think it’s Version 3 – it’s grey and tiny) is okay to type on for the most part.  It has a qwerty keyboard.  I would love it if they could get numerals on the keyboard too, though – for those you have to open up a screen and navigate the cursor around it.  And moving the cursor around is a huge pain. I’ve gotten over my initial desire to use the Kindle like an iDevice with a touch screen – I wouldn’t sacrifice the reading ease of e-ink – but there’s got to be a better way to move the cursor.
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Kindle Report: Citiation Issues

February 8, 2011

Teaching with texts on a Kindle quickly brings up the question of how to cite such works in a scholarly paper.  Citing books or other works read on an Kindle (or any other e-book reader) is not explicitly covered in the MLA Handbook (7th edition, 2009), which is the style used by the UGA English Department. (The UGA Libraries’ short guide to MLA 7 is available as a .pdf file.)  The topic has been the subject of some debate online, at the Chronicle of Higher Education forums and on numerous blogs and other sites.

Consensus seems to be that one cites the work as if it were a combination of a print book and a digital file, adding “Kindle Edition” if the work is purchased from the Amazon Kindle store, and using a location number (or a chapter number) in lieu of a page number for quotations.  For works found at Project Gutenburg, or other sites providing digitzed books in Kindle formats, one should probably cite the work in its original print incarnation, and add, i.e., “Kindle Edition from Project Gutenberg” and location numbers as needed.

For students, a consultation with the professor for the class is advised before submission of the paper, to see if the professor has any personal feelings on the subject.

Here are the suggested examples the professor and I came up with (using MLA):

In-text: “The sun illuminates only the eye of man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.” (Emerson 54)
Works Cited list: Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Nature.  Project Gutenberg, edition for Kindle, 2009.  E-book.

In-text: “Actually, the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day;” (Thoreau 77).
Works Cited list: Thoreau, Henry David, Walden. Amazon Kindle edition, 2004.  E-book.

Just yesterday, however, came the news that Kindle books will start having page numbers; it is implied that these will correspond to the page numbers of the print edition from which the Kindle edition is derived.  This makes things easy, for books that have a print edition – but plenty of books already do not, and more will not in the future.  It’s a brave new world.  Luckily Walden is timeless.