Tag Archives: Britannica

DOD offers audiobooks

I received the following Press Release concerning the DOD and audiobooks.  I’m glad to see government agencies making the leap to electronic books.

Department of Defense offers downloadable audiobooks through MyiLibrary

La VERGNE, TN – Ingram Content Group Inc. announced today an agreement with the US Department of Defense (DOD) to offer downloadable digital audiobooks to military service members, their dependents, and National Guard members through MyiLibrary®, Ingram’s market leading online e-content aggregation platform.    Continue reading

Webinar – 21st Century Reference Collections

Reference Books Bulletin (Booklist) will host a webinar on the 21st century reference collection on January 12th.  Register online for this free event.

Here is the description of the event:

Reference collections are changing, driven by technology and new patterns of use. Join Booklist’s Mary Ellen Quinn, Editor of Reference Books Bulletin, and a group of library and publishing experts as they talk about how the traditional reference collection is being transformed. Panelists include David A. Tyckoson, Associate Dean, California State University Henry Madden Library; and representatives from Encyclopaedia Britannica, M. E. Sharpe, World Book, and ABC-CLIO.

New Articles of Interest

Bill Clinton Pens New Britannica Article on Dayton Accords

IDPF elections: Faster e-book standards-making expected—given BOTH presidential candidates’ platforms

Springer Group, Second-Leading STM Publisher, Sold by/to Private Equity Firms – 12/11/2009 – Library Journal

Canadian Private School Switches to Sony e-Readers   – 12/9/2009 8:28:00 AM – Publishers Weekly

Baker & Taylor Acquires Blackwell North America, Will Merge into YBP – 12/7/2009 – Library Journal

The Future of the Book – From One Perspective

Britannica’s Michael Ross (also on the NSR Advisory Board), has an interesting blog post of the future of the book.  It is a summary of his thoughts and impressions from attending two book related conferences “down under.”  The article appears on the Britannica blog.  Michael discusses some eBook readers and devices, copyright, green thinking, and the overall impressions of younger Australians towards eBooks.

Side note, I love the “steal this widget” tactic on Britannica’s blog.  Widgets are in.

Britannica’s Overhaul

Original article in Boston Globe.  By Hiawatha Bray Boston Globe Staff / March 31, 2009

Enter Britannica
For 241 years, it’s been the gold standard of reference books, a premium-priced digest of the world’s accumulated knowledge. Now it’s being overwhelmed by an eight-year-old online upstart authored by amateurs and available at no charge. How can Encyclopaedia Britannica survive in a wiki world?

The venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica is preparing for the most radical overhaul in its 241-year history, and it’s recruiting its readers to do much of the work.

It’s a bid by Britannica to remain relevant at a time when the world’s most popular encyclopedia, the eight-year-old website Wikipedia, is written entirely by amateur experts. The new version of Britannica Online, set to debut this summer, will emulate the Wikipedia concept by letting subscribers make changes to any article, ranging from minor edits to near-total rewrites.

But Britannica president Jorge Cauz scoffs at the idea that he’s merely imitating his giant online rival. “I don’t believe it’s accurate to say that Britannica and Wikipedia are becoming more similar,” he said. While Wikipedia is written and edited by amateurs who often work anonymously, Britannica Online articles will be overseen by professional editors. In addition, there will be no anonymity: Authors and editors will be identified by name. Cauz said this will give Britannica Online articles a credibility and authority Wikipedia can’t match.

If Wikipedia’s credibility is lower than Britannica’s, users don’t seem to mind. With its 10 million articles – 2.7 million in English – and its 275 million readers per month, Wikipedia’s scale and popularity dwarf that of Britannica’s online edition, which serves just 200,000 households and offers just 112,000 articles.

Wikipedia grew so popular partly because it’s free, while Britannica Online charges $70 a year. And Wikipedia’s array of articles is so vast because anybody can write for it. Only paying subscribers will be eligible to write for Britannica Online.

Cauz concedes that Britannica will never have as many articles as Wikipedia. But he said many Wikipedia articles are about trivial topics Britannica has no interest in covering. “They can talk about porno actors and cartoon characters as well as heart attacks,” said Cauz. “That is something we will never do.”

Instead, Britannica will still focus on its core market: schools, libraries, and homes, where people need authoritative information on important topics.

Britannica still prints a traditional multivolume encyclopedia and other reference works, but about 75 percent of the company’s revenue come from online sales. Privately held Britannica won’t reveal its revenue and earnings numbers, but Cauz said the company has turned a profit for the past five years.

The upgraded encyclopedia is set to debut this summer, but a test version is already up and running. Users who open an article are given an editing option that turns the Web browser into a mini word processor, where they can make small or large revisions. These changes are submitted to a Britannica editor, and perhaps to the article’s author.

“We have full responsibility,” said Cauz. “Every article will have to go through the rigorous editorial review of Britannica.” If the changes pass muster, they’re added to the official Britannica article, and the name of the user who made the changes is published on the website.

Cauz noted Britannica Online will allow edits of all its articles. Ironically, this will give Britannica a more open editing policy than Wikipedia’s. Despite its reputation for openness, Wikipedia permanently “locks” some articles on controversial people and subjects to prevent changes. “We want to stop . . . what we call drive-by vandalism,” said Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales.

Indeed, since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia has gradually tightened its standards, according to Andrew Lih, a Wikipedia editor and author of a new book, “The Wikipedia Revolution.”

“When it was first started, it was completely open editing,” Lih said. “Over the years, they’ve started to put more restrictions on it, simply because as you have a larger and larger crowd, it attracts more vandals.”

For example, about 3,000 articles are “semiprotected,” meaning that they can only be modified by Wikipedia users who have been members of the site for more than four days. Wales said he’s not entirely happy with this limitation. “One of the problems with semiprotection,” he said, “is that it’s difficult for newcomers to get involved.”

The German edition of Wikipedia addressed this problem by using “flagged revisions” of sensitive articles. These can be freely modified by anybody, even Wikipedia newcomers. But the modifications are flagged for review by a trusted editor before being published.

Now Wales plans to introduce flagged revisions to the English-language version of Wikipedia. He called it “an effort to open up pages to public editing that we have not had open to public editing for several years.”

If flagged editing works, it will make Wikipedia more open to public revision. But since some articles will remain locked, Wikipedia still won’t be quite as open to revision as Britannica Online.

Another addition to Britannica Online will come even closer to the original Wikipedia model. Cauz said Britannica subscribers and authors of articles for the encyclopedia will be given access to a separate area, where they can write articles on any topic they choose. When a Britannica Online user searches for information on a topic, links to these independent articles will appear alongside the official Britannica article. Each article will carry the names of its author and anyone who’s edited it, but there will be no review by Britannica editors, and the company won’t vouch for its accuracy.

Its critics say Wikipedia’s good name has been damaged by poorly written or libelous articles posted on the site. Britannica’s new feature could put its own reputation on the line. But determined to reinvent itself, Britannica is taking the risk.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.

E-Reference Ratings from LJ

LJ just released E-Reference Ratings, “an evaluation of nearly 180 subscription based electronic resources in 14 subject categories.”  Of course, many of these are eBook platforms like Britannica, Credo, GVRL, Oxford, and Sage.   There was no category for eBooks, instead you’ll find them listed under the various subject categories.

Products were reviewed by a team of 8 reference experts and included 7 criteria:  scope, writing, design, linking, bells & whistles, ease of use, value.  Resources were given a star rating, 1 to 4 stars to indicate * poor, ** satisfactory, ***good, ****excellent  A brief paragraph also accompanied each resource.

According to LJ, “Because we know that online resources continually grow and evolve—a list of this nature can date quickly—E-Reference Ratings, which made a print debut in the November 15th Reference Announcements issue, will find its permanent home and reach its full potential on our web site. We intend not only to keep up with these ever-changing products (adjusting the ratings as necessary) but also to expand the number of databases in each category and venture into new ones. We hope to hear from all parties—librarians, publishers, and vendors—about how we can keep this tool thriving and make it even more useful.”

Congrats LJ!  This was no small feat.�

Britannica’s Widgets

A really neat feature from Encyclopaedia Britannica – Content Widgets .  I’m a big fan of widgets, particularly ones with nice visuals.  They draw the users attention and can lead them to authoritative reference content.  Here’s the official info from Britannica:

Check Out Britannica’s New Widget Feature!
Britannica Widgets are here, and with them you can instantly post an entire cluster of related Encyclopædia Britannica articles on your blog or Web site. Just follow the instructions and copy and paste the several lines of code associated with each widget as html into the appropriate place on your site. Any readers who click on a link will get the entire Britannica article on the subject, even if access to the article normally requires a subscription.

Widgets are an innovative way to share information on websites and blogs!

Here are a couple of samples (click for larger image):

britannica1.png britannica2.png

The Britannica Newsletter “inside Britannica” states it is a feature of the Britannica Online Academic Edition.  According to Lillian Terry, my Britannica Rep who sent me a nice email yesterday, this feature is also available in the Public and School online editions as well.  Very cool, very cool.

A Visit to Encyclopaedia Britannica

Monday, August 11th I stopped by the Encyclopaedia Britannica offices on LaSalle street in Chicago.  I visited Michael Ross, Senior VP of Corporate Development.  Michael gave me a nice tour of the Britannica headquarters and I took some photos to share with everyone.  You’ll see some remarkable similarities between an international publisher and a library.

britannica-001.jpg They have bookshelves AND servers.

britannica-002.jpg 60+ servers in 3 locations as a matter of fact.

britannica-004.jpg No, this isn’t spaghetti, it’s Britannica ONLINE!!  Don’t cut the pink one….

britannica-011.jpg Despite the thousands of wires to support Britannica online, they still have a print library collection.

britannica-009.jpg And they use white boards to sketch out future plans.

britannica-005.jpg I even got a sneak peek at the cover art for the 2009 Almanac!

britannica-010.jpg And they dress business casual, just like me!

Seriously now, Britannica has a really cool feature coming to all of their online products sometime this fall.  Right now it is called “project darwin” but it will take on a new name online.  This new feature will bring web 2.0 features to Britannica online including user comment/feedback areas.    Some other facts about Britannica:

Over one million visitors use Britannica online every day.

Britannica offers multiple interfaces for their products (they manage over 30) – public (free, with annoy wear) , individual membership, institutional/libraries, and multiple foreign language interfaces including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, and 2 in Spanish.

They offer thousands of videos too.

Britannica Blog offers daily posts on thousands of topics, by hundreds of writers – many well known.

For more information, check out Britannica Online here:  www.britannica.com

And thanks, Michael, for the tour!

A View From the Top Panel at ALA

A View From the Top Panel, ALA Annual Conference

Here’s a snapshot from the ALA Presentation – A View from the Top.

Left to right:

John Barnes, Gale/Cengage, Rolf Janke, Sage, Sue Polanka, WSU, Michael Ross, Britannica, Casper Grathwohl, Oxford

To start the session, each of the panelists was asked:

Will we have reference in 10-15 years?  If so, what will it look like?

Their responses were:

John Barnes – Yes, but in a different form – digital and more interactive.  The transformation is already happening. The first step is to get our collections online, which we are doing now.  This might help to ease the “if it isn’t online it doesn’t exist” philosophy of researchers

Rolf Janke – Yes, but google and other web based vendors might share the stage with us. 5 years ago google was a threat, now they are partners.

Michael Ross  – Yes, but the vocabulary will change. We won’t have collections or series, ‘search’ will become ‘find,’ and there will be more birthing of products online.  Reference will need to become unbound – in a more transparent environment that address the needs of a variety of people.

Casper Grathwohl – We are not dying, we are knowledge factories. All of us, including Wikipedia, have a place in the environment. The information is there, we need to determine how to define it and add value to it, and there is no lack of ideas on which direction to go.