Posts tagged “library”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] A Memory of Webs Past [IEEE Spectrum] – [The French National Library is updating their technical ability to archive absolutely everything ever published.] "We have a lot of so-called crap, and we're happy about that," says Illien, an archivist. His colleagues in other countries might turn up their noses at hard-core porn, advertisements, and obscure newsletters, but not Illien. "In a hundred years, what's totally irrelevant or dirty today will end up becoming of extreme interest to historians." The archivists here aren't after just printed material; they're preserving the electronic, too. It's his daunting task to archive French Web sites—all of them, in all their evanescent, constantly changing, and multimedia splendor. "I'm convinced the Web as we know it will be gone in a few years' time. What we're doing in this library is trying to capture a trace of it." Illien sees himself as a steward of an ancient tradition; he believes he is helping pioneer a revolution in the way society documents what it does and how it thinks.

E-books outsell hardovers

What’s there to say but, “it’s happened?” At Amazon, e-books are outselling hardover books.

Amazon hit a symbolic milestone last holiday season, when for one day its sales of e-books exceeded the number of dead-tree books it had sold.

Now the company has hit a more significant milestone, selling 143 e-books for every 100 hardcover books sold over the course of the second quarter. The rate is accelerating: For the past month, Amazon sold 180 e-books for every 100 hardcovers, and it sold three times as many e-books in the first six months of this year as it did in the first half of 2009. [via Wired]

Ironically, I just went to the Burlingame library and got myself a new library card. I loved libraries as a kid, and still do. The Kindle doesn’t have a place around it – it’s almost purely about content. But reading is so much more than the imbibing of content (see our Reading Ahead research for more about this).

Amazon’s customer reviews start to bring in some of the social aspect of reading, and it will be interesting to see whether the company goes further into the total reading experience, or remains primarily a provider of content and devices.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Don Norman on Ethnography and Innovation – Some great commentary on Norman's piece (discussed here as well) including the very exciting revelation that Edison did something very much like ethnography!
  • General Motors – The Lab – It’s a pilot program for GM, an interactive design research community in the making. Here you can get to know the designers, check out some of their projects, and help them get to know you. Like a consumer feedback event without the one-way glass.

    We work on ideas that will influence our future vehicles. We want to share our ideas, inventions and pre-production vehicle designs. We want to build the right cars and trucks for your future. We want your opinion.

  • Iceberg Digital Book Reader for the iPhone – Digital books as content, as hardware, as a platform, as an OS, as an app? Interesting to see a range of approaches appearing. Iceberg use the iTunes store to sell the books, which seems like a brilliant strategy, leveraging a storefront/distribution platform that already exists.
  • Steal These Books – From Wikipedia page about book theft, a set of articles that describe what books get stolen from bookstores (independent, chain, and campus) and libraries.
  • Archaeology’s Hoaxes, Fakes, and Strange Sites – A large set of links to articles about fake archeological-type stuff (discoveries, artifacts, and the like). How and why.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • New England prep school Cushing Academy gets rid of printed books – With more than 20,000 books, officials decided the school no longer needs a traditional library. They have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks.

    “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

    They have spent $10K to buy 18 Sony and Amazon electronic readers which they’re stocking with digital material for students looking to spend more time with literature. Those who don’t have access to the electronic readers will do their research and peruse assigned texts on their computers.

  • Neil Gaiman’s Bookshelves – Photographs of author Gaiman's extensive collection of books (via BoingBoing)

Reading Ahead: Analysis and Synthesis

Reading ahead logo with space above

Synthesizing field data into well-articulated, data-driven patterns, themes, and opportunities is a big part of our work, but it’s an aspect that generally has less visibility than the fieldwork.

An essential early step in the synthesis process involves going back over the fieldwork sessions. An hour or two-hour interview creates an incredible amount of information. By going back into a record of the interview, we make sure not to leave anything significant behind.

We go through and make notes on interview transcripts (done by an outside service), watch videos of the sessions, and look over photographs, sketches, maps, and participatory design pieces.

Portigal-Consulting_synth3w
Annotated interview transcript

We made a bulletin board of the people we met, so they’re ever-present while we’re working.

Portigal-Consulting_synth1

Yesterday we came together to share the points we’d each pulled out. We present each interview, like a case study, to the team. Sometimes it’s just us, and sometimes our clients join us for part of this process.

Portigal-Consulting_synth2w

While one of us presented, the other captured the essence onto Post-its. We had a lot of discussion and debate while we did this, pulling together multiple viewpoints.

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When we were done presenting the interviews, the board looked like this:

Portigal-Consulting_synth4w

Our next step is to take these notes and start grouping them. We’ll look at different ways the information can be organized, and from there, will start refining our work and writing it up clearly and succinctly into a report.

Reading Ahead: Topline Summary

Reading ahead logo with space above

As soon as possible after concluding fieldwork, we write a Topline Summary, in which we capture our first impressions and the ideas that are top-of-mind from being in the field.

We’re always careful to be clear about what the Topline is and isn’t. There’s synthesis that happens from the fieldwork experience itself (which the Topline captures), and synthesis that happens from working with the data (which we haven’t done yet).

In the Topline we go a step further than the field highlights and start to articulate some of the patterns we think are emerging, but these ideas may change once we do a detailed analysis and synthesis of the data we’ve gathered.

In a client project, we’ll have a discussion with the client team around the Topline Summary. We encourage members of the client team to come out in the field with us, and the Topline discussion is a great opportunity for everyone who did so to share their experiences and tell stories. The Topline discussion is also a good time for our clients to let us know if there are any specific directions they want us to pursue as we analyze and synthesize the data we’ve gathered.

We’ve now finished our fieldwork for Reading Ahead. We conducted six in-depth interviews, with photo diary and participatory design activities (more in our next few posts about these methods).

Here’s our Topline Summary:



Portigal Consulting: Reading Ahead Topline Summary

  1. Reading is not just a solo activity; there are significant social/interpersonal aspects for many people
  • Recommendations, book clubs, lending

  • Books facilitate the interpersonal aspects of reading

  • Can be easily lent or given away
  • Given as gifts
  • People can use a book together: parents and kids, showing someone a passage or illustrations, etc.

  • Reading can be a big part of family life

  • Childhood memories, passing books between generations, reading with one’s own children.

  • Connection between home life and outside world (school)

  1. Reading and Books are not always one and the same
  • Erica buys some books because she likes them as objects. She knows she may not read all of them. “I love books. I almost like books more than reading.”

  • Jeff says if you love to read, you’d like the Kindle. If you love books, you should try it out before you buy one

  • The Kindle facilitates types of reading beyond books: blogs, articles, periodicals

  1. Books do more than carry content
  • Books engage the senses: they are tactile, visual objects, with specific characteristics like smell and weight

  • Become carriers of specific memories

  • Develop a patina that carries meaning
  • An inscribed book becomes a record of an event, interaction, relationship

  • There is an art/collector aspect to books (which is absent in the Kindle)
  • First editions
  • Signed copies
  • Galley proofs
  • Typography
  • Pictures and illustrations
  • Quality of paper, printing, etc.
  • Books say something about a person
  • Others can see what you’re reading; like clothes, etc., this carries meaning
  • “Looking at someone’s bookshelves when you go to their house” (Jeff)
  • When people give books as gifts they are deliberately communicating something about the relationship, the event, themselves, and the recipient

  • Books can create a physical record of someone’s reading activity
  • Chris used to line up all the books he had read to get a sense of accomplishment
  • Annotations, bookmarks, tags all convey the reader’s personal history with that book

  1. Books are easily shared
  • Pass them along to others

  • Donate to library

  • Sell or buy at used book store

  • Borrow from the library rather than purchasing

  1. How books are stored and organized carries meaning
  • Emotion, sense of pride, expression of personality, record of engagement

  • Erica organizes her books by how the content/type of book feels to her: “dusty” classics, modern classics, etc.

  • Julie’s extensive shelves are organized alphabetically to reinforce the idea of library

  1. Libraries and bookstores provide specific experiences
  • As a little girl, Erica visited different libraries with her Mom. This was their daily activity, and Erica retains strong and specific memories

  • Julie and her housemate recreated a library atmosphere in their home

  • A quiet, comfortable space
  • Good lighting
  • Alphabetized bookshelves
  • A unified décor

  • For Jeff and others, spending time browsing in a bookstore represents having leisure time

  1. The Kindle
  • For people whose love of reading is bound up in their love of books, the Kindle loses much of the reading experience; it is only a content carrier

  • Julie has a history of wanting to read on electronic devices as well as from printed books, so to her, the Kindle is a big evolutionary step from her old Palm, the iPhone, etc.

  • For Erica, the Kindle signifies “computer,” so it does not let her “unplug” from the fast-paced connected lifestyle that books provide a refuge from

  • Several people described the kinetics of page-turning as an important aspect of reading books that is absent in the Kindle

  • Books afford ways of navigating content that the Kindle does not: flipping, comparing non-sequential pages, looking at the recipes at the end of each chapter, etc.

  • Peter finds it frustrating that when he buys a Kindle book from Amazon, he can’t share it. When he started working in an environment where people were passing books around, he went back to reading printed books

  1. Participant ideation about the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future”
  • NOTE: The first thing a number of the participants said when asked about what the “book of the future” could be and do was that it’s pretty hard to improve on the book-it works very well the way it is. In addition to all the qualities already mentioned, books are

  • Instant on-off
  • Durable

  • But people did have ideas. Here are some of them:

  • Interactive
  • Put yourself in the story
  • Leave the story for more information
  • Choose from alternate endings, versions

  • Size-shifting

  • Able to morph from bigger size for reading to smaller for transporting
  • Retain the book form while adding functionality

  • Book form with replaceable content: a merging of book and device, with a cover, and page-turning but content is not fixed-it can be many different books
  • Books that contain hyperlinks, electronic annotations, multimedia, etc.
  • Privacy

  • Hide what you’re reading from others, hide annotations, hide your personal book list and lend your device to someone (with content for them)
  • Projecting

  • A device that projects words that float above it, so that the reader doesn’t have to hold the device in their hands

Reading Ahead: Fieldwork highlights – Julie

Reading ahead logo with space above

During the fieldwork cycle, we write quick summaries of each interview session and send these immediately to our clients so they can start to circulate stories. At this point in the process we strive to stay descriptive; our goal is just to get stories about the people we’re meeting out to the extended team (us, our direct clients, and their stakeholders).


Our interview with Julie (not her real name) was the last session in the fieldwork for this project.

Julie and her housemate have an amazing library in their San Leandro home, with three walls of alphabetized floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. With the bookshelves and quiet ambiance of the space, being in this part of their home feels just like being a library.

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The whole downstairs of their house has been optimized for reading; they have great lighting, and comfortable sofas big enough for two people to stretch out on simultaneously.

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Of the six people we met, Julie was the person who most seemed to have integrated printed book and Kindle reading. For Julie, reading a book and reading on the Kindle are both equally positive experiences; in fact, she will sometimes go back and forth between a printed book and the Kindle version of the same book, depending on whether she is at home, traveling, etc.

While some of the people we met described the Kindle as less-than-satisfying compared to a printed book, Julie has a long history of reading on electronic devices, and finds the Kindle a big step forward.

In the following clip, Julie talks about how her electronic reading has evolved, from her first Palm Pilot up to her current Kindle 2:

Dan writes: One persons’s ‘dumbing down’ is another person’s ‘smartening up’

There’s a really interesting public discourse going on in Gilbert, Arizona, regarding the Perry Branch Library’s decision to do away with the Dewey Decimal System in favor of a bookstore-like system of organization. Peruse the comments below the article for 3 pages of heated, fascinating dialogue!

Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from the discussion:

And also with RFID, who is going to bother searching for a book when they can look up the book on a wiki, hit a button and get a robot to bring it to them where ever they are sitting.

Michael Bierut at UX Week

Michael gave one of the keynotes today at UXWeek. He is a great storyteller with a wonderful self-deprecating style (that somehow combines with an amusing cynicism about some of those around him; but yet he’s genuine in it all). His talk essentially focused on his learning moment(s) as a designer around being user-centered.

He took on a pro-bono project to rename/rebrand/create a logo/etc. for a project to redo decrepit libraries in NYC schools. In a post-modern fashion, he presented his deliverables for that client in a dry and critical tone, mocking his own “big ideas” in a way that made it clear he no longer sees them as big ideas any longer. It was an interesting line to skate, there is always bullshit and performance in trying to convince someone that a new idea (or a trite idea, brought in for the first time, etc.) is a valid one, and it’s easy to present the same idea as genius or crap depending on the tone of voice. Listen to some old Bob Newhart recordings for a concrete example (Tob-acco… er, what’s tob-acco, Walt? It’s a kind of leaf, huh?… and you bought eighty tonnes of it?!!… Let me get this straight, Walt… you’ve bought eighty tonnes of leaves?… This may come as a kind of a surprise to you Walt but… come fall in England, we’re kinda up to our…).

Bierut’s ideas were completely inappropriate and indicated how poorly he understood the problem. The client took him out to see the libraries, and he got it. Instantly, and hugely. And the design work that he and many others collaborated one was wonderful. Framed as a story about his own failures, it’s actually a story about success. But the framing is what makes the telling of the story so genius.

Bierut gave his client a new treatment for the library. In a funny PowerPoint build he went from
Library
to
Library!
to
L!brary
to
L!brary

He planned to deliver a full specification document indicating fonts and treatment and all the rest, but in the interim, the client took control over the logo and started using it whatever way they wanted. He realized that this was okay, and that the cultural (and indeed design) benefits outweighed any super-specification desire he might have projected on them.

One awesome and obvious (in hindsight) example of this dawning user-centered perspective was in how Michael and his team referred to these different libraries being designed. Before meeting the librarians, he referred to them by the architect (i.e., the Peter Arkle (sp!) library) but afterwards he learned that it was referred to as “Vince’s library” – a classic user research insight – different groups call things by different names, revealing their underlying use model!

Five things he learned
1. Innovation is overrated*
2. You get power by giving away power
3. The real opportunity may be outside your scope of work
4. Consistency does not equal sameness
5. Take care of the experience and the brand will take care of itself

The “innovation” comment was challenging and Ryan Freitas asked about it. Bierut added that “innovation has never been a profound motivator for me…design has to work within conventions to work.” Seems like we’re approaching the I-word with some different things in mind. Bierut felt he started off being too “clever” – which I hear as new for new’s sake – and that wasn’t the right thing to do. I don’t think innovative means shocking, obviously new, different, and all that. I think innovation can be invisible and brilliant and seamless to adapt to, with that whiff of exhaled “ooh!” that happens afterwards. To a graphic designer, the word may mean something else.

Library rhetoric

Here’s a nice bit of rhetoric from my local library (sent via email – a nice feature)

Subject: Courtesy Pre-Overdue Notice from Your Library

94037 PORTIGAL, STEVE L

The item(s) listed below are due back soon. This courtesy notice does not list everything currently on your record, just those items thatare due in the next few days. http://catalog.plsinfo.org For questions, please call your local library.

Pre-Overdue? That’s just ludicrous. And insulting. It places the customer’s actions into the category of prohibited, suggesting you are already a violator.

Are we pre-violating the speed limit by driving 2 mph under? Are airline travellers potential terrorists?

For all the protestations about protecting liberty in the face of the Patriot Act we’ve heard by librarians, you’d think the library culture would be a bit more sensitive to the impact of their language choices (being a library, and all that, dealing with words as their primary item of exchange). Screw you, library, for telling me I’ve almost committed a violation. My books aren’t due until they are due, and don’t treat me like an overdue-book-holding-patron until I reach that point.

(chances are this is an automated feature of some IT purchased by the library system by some vendor, where neither the customer (the library) nor the software company gave any thought to thinking about design, brand, communication, customers, etc. but They Love Infstracture and Cost Savings, so off we go. Yuck).

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