Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Textbooks and conne(x)ions

Ever since I had Kinkos print out a copy of the PREMIS data dictionary and bind it for me (for just $16!), I have been longing for a comparable piece of literature to come out for MODS and METS. I mean, didn't PREMIS win an award or something for putting their information in such a wonderful and useable format?


I know that all computer geeks think print is just sooo 1993, but seriously, it's very comforting to have a paper version of the PREMIS tags within arms' reach. And I don't even use PREMIS very much (for the record, I also have a bound copy of FRBR, but it kind of doesn't seem as cool as PREMIS). Imagine if we had neat, easy to print-off-and-bind copies of the METS terms, instead of the interminable webpages, and mouse clicking (by the way, if there is such a thing as a printable METS dictionary and I'm just too dumb to find it, please tell me so that I can go out and get it. Don't let me stay a fool).

Oh my God, am I getting old? Did I just say that a webpage was clunky?

Yes, of course I did! Traditional webpages ARE clunky. There's a reason that everyone's so excited about web 2.0 (and now 3.0), and it isn't because webpages are staying static and obtuse. It's because we have this new ability to make something GREAT with our technology. Not just a list of items, but something that's more dynamic and can grow and is intuitive to use.

Speaking of which, have [you] seen Connexions? It's a Rice University project that has turned into a huge success. Open source, online textbooks. Apparently some of the textbooks that have been created are being used as the national curriculum of Mongolia. The quick and dirty layout of Connexions is that it takes too long to write a traditional textbook, and the sciences especially can't keep up with the new information by creating textbooks in the old way. So this guy from Rice (electrical engineer, maybe?) decided that why not create something like Wikipedia, but you can create full textbooks instead? You start by creating modules, smaller snippets of information (like, say, for a physics book, a module on Acceleration and then a module on Torque, and then a module on angular momentum, etc etc), and then you pick and choose which snippets you need for your textbook, select them, have the website generate a textbook for you, and then you ORDER IT PRINTED by an overnight printing house, who creates a real, honest-to-God hardbound set of textbooks for you for about $20 each.
Not $350 like you might expect for a physics textbook or a bio textbook. No. $20.

It's pretty cool.

Hmm....maybe we should start writing a metadata/cataloging textbook...with all the tags that we use, and all the rules we follow, and maybe entries on FRBR and AACRII....a library "textbook"? Intriguing.

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"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.