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Notes from ALA Midwinter 2010

   January 19th, 2010 Brian Herzog

ALA Midwinter 2010 exhibit hallHere are a few random notes from the weekend - the best part of the conference is talking with other librarians, and of course the free stuff.

Apps: Past or Future?
Despite not having a cell phone, I still ended up talking a lot about apps at the show. Gale has a great approach for AccessMyLibrary. Check out the Librarian in Black's writeup, but what I liked about it is the geolocation authentication: it shows you all libraries within 10 miles, and lets you into their (Gale) database - no typing in library card numbers.

At the LibraryThing party, there was lots of talk about LT's new Local Books app. Some people loved it, and some people didn't (especially the Android user I talked to, who couldn't find one for his phone). This also led to an interesting discussion on whether or not apps are even needed - one theory was that if the mobile version of your website is good enough, then you shouldn't need a separate app. Therefore, a good app does some kind of mashup not possible on the website.

Then again, I also heard that apps are on their way out in 2010.

eBooks: Present and Future
This is an area I've been paying attention to, and I still learned a lot. The eBooks that Overdrive offers are in epub and pdf formats, and circulate just like their audio books. But the best part is that they work on the Sony Reader and Nook - I did not know that. Apparently they have lots of both fiction and non-fiction titles, so I'm going to explore this avenue for my library.

Gale also offers eBooks, but I forgot to ask about the format. What I did like was that they aren't limited to one user at a time - they were more like a database, where anyone can log in, search and use them.

I also saw a demo of B&T's new eBook software, Blio (pronounced blee-O). I kept hearing they were coming out with something great, but I thought it was a physical eBook device - it's not, it's just the software. But the software really was pretty great:

  • will work on computers and mobile devices
  • it does full-color
  • videos embedded in books (so a book on the circulation system shows videos of how the body works)
  • quizzes in books for review
  • text-to-speech in multiple voices, so different characters have different voices
  • can highlight words as it reads, or will pronounce words you click on (to help kids or ESL students learn to read)
  • has full-spread view of kids picture books (so it looks the same on screen as in print, with all the pictures and text - the pages even flip as if you were holding the book)

They're concentrating on the consumer version first - the software is free, but it sounded like books will be on the expensive end, due to the enhanced content. Whenever I asked a library-specific question, the answer I got was, "oh, we're still working on the details of the library model."

So, yay for a successful conference. And in this case, successful = two shirts, three books, earbuds, notebook, pencils, pins, and lots of candy.

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