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February 24, 2006

Happy birthday, Steve

Today is Steve Jobs's 51st birthday. People who know me know that I am a big fan of Apple Computer products. (my first Mac was the 128K original model in 1984, and I've had one of most models in between--even some of the dogs in the late '80s. I currently personally use most often a 12" G4 powerbook, and I have 3 various iPods in rotation.) But yesterday Apple announced a milestone that may eclipse all of Steve Jobs's accomplishments to date: the sale of the billionth legally downloaded song from the iTunes store. (The winner of the billionth song will receive a 20" iMac, 10 iPods, a $10,000 iTunes store gift card, and--with a kind of Donald-Trump-ish "class"--a scholarship will be established in honor of the event at the Juilliard School in New York.)

Apple is the company who accomplished what many said could not be done--getting people to pay willingly for songs to download them legally. The simplicity of the $.99 per song scheme and the relatively liberal rights for consumers to use the songs on multiple computers and burn them to CDs has been part of the success. It is, of course, all a ploy to get people to buy iPods, since the per-song profit margin to Apple for downloads is miniscule. But Apple's success in the market does also set the bar high for potential competitors (Amazon.com being the latest to announce their entry into the market.) A billion songs is a lot of content for people to abandon to move to a different--and incompatible--format. One might hope that Apple would open its digital rights management software to other players in the market. Amazon's scheme of making digital downloads available immediately for CDs that you buy online in intriguing. This week alone I have purchased three CDs and immediately converted them to play on my iPod or my digital music server at home, bypassing the CD player entirely. (To be honest, I don't remember the last time I actually played a CD--I prefer being able to put together diverse song lists with my Squeezebox device at home.) As someone who is mostly interested in classical music (although I am also known to download trashy dance music as well), I don't usually download "by the song", but still more by complete albums. (Since symphonies and operas are multi-movement works, in most cases, it's cheaper to buy the whole thing than to just download a few segments.) The availability of downloadable music has not diminished my purchasing of CDs--sometimes I just want the liner notes, which I can't get with online downloads.

The landscape continues to change rapidly, and undoubtedly Apple's dominance will be challenged. Others want a piece of the action. But if Steve Jobs's previous actions warrant any prediction of the future, he has more plans up his sleeve to keep things interesting--and to keep my buying Apple computers.

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February 14, 2006

Water off in KSL tonight

Due to work that the city of Cleveland is doing on the water mains running up Euclid Avenue, the water will be shut off in Kelvin Smith Library tonight (Tuesday 2/14) beginning at 10:00 PM for about 5 hours. There will be no water in the building for restrooms or water fountains. The Thwing Center will be kept open until 2:00 AM to provide restroom facilities.

We regret any inconvenience this may cause; however, we did not have any choice about the situation.

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February 02, 2006

Ground Hog Day 2006

Arelene & Steve Groundhog Day

Some people celebrate Halloween; other people celebrate Christmas. Not everyone celebrates Ground Hog Day. But KSL Head of Acquisitions and Humanities Collection Manager Arlene Sievers-Hill and her husband Steve Hill do. In celebration of the day, they made an appearance at KSL in their matching ground hog hats. Many on the staff agreed that the caps were quite fetching. (For the humor-impaired: No ground hogs were harmed in the creation of this apparel.)

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Digital Case beta released

I'm pleased to report that as of yesterday, February 1, 2006, the Digital Case project has been released in a beta version. Please note that much of the data is still "sample" data used for testing purposes; however, over the next few weeks, a sizable amount of digital library data will be loaded into the system. This initial beta release also does not have the final "look and feel" that we want to see with Digital Case. We expect that to be finished by the first public release sometime in April 2006. We are already planning features for the second release.

So, you say, "The look of it isn't done, and there's no data. Why should I bother?" One of the most important things about this beta is the very complex magic behind the scenes that is running Digital Case--database, indexing, image manipulation, metadata management. These are all things that build toward the success of Digital Case, but are not readily apparent in the foreground.

Stay tuned for more exciting developments in Digital Case. I especially want to thank Nathan Lambert, CTO of Kelvin Smith Library, and his Technology Team, and Linda Cantara, Head of Digital Library Initiatives, for getting us this far. I also want to acknowledge the support of a Provost Opportunity Fund grant for the funding the initial start-up costs.

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