What's new in library tech? Welcome to our monthly collection of fun and hopefully useful news items from our great twitter feed and wherever else we find them.
Happy Handwashing Awareness Month, by the way. We've made it through 2020. Whew! This month we're of course covering some best book lists from this year, plus some weird but useful gift ideas. We also have useful news on Ford Foundation's free new cybersecurity assessment tool and some other zany holiday surprises as well for you. Here's our lineup this month.
- What's behind the Penguin Random House – Simon & Schuster merger
- The best books of 2020
- Conspiracy theories unmasked
- The library automation perceptions survey
- Ford Foundation's free new cybersecurity assessment tool
- Weird but useful gifts
- Move over, book clubs — meet video streaming clubs
- Drone delivery of library materials in Virginia
Here's your library tech newsbytes for December 2020.
What's Behind the Penguin Random House - Simon & Schuster Merger
It's big publishing news that Penguin Random House is working on acquiring Simon & Schuster. Franklin Foer writing for The Atlantic has some interesting early analysis. He notes that the new juggernaut company will publish as much as a third of all books in the U.S. As book publishing consolidates, authors tend to lose. With diminished competition to sign writers, the size of advances will likely shrink. Publishers will grow hesitant to take risks on new authors and new ideas.
Foer explains what is behind the merger. The deal is transpiring in the context of Amazon. In the face of Amazon's dominance, book publishers have huddled together in search of safety. He argues that if the government constrains publishers without constraining Amazon, then the government will merely accelerate the accumulation of untenable power in one single company.
The Best Books of 2020
The annual best book lists of the year are one of the great things about December. Here's a sampling for 2020.
- NPR's Book Concierge is National Public Radio's annual, interactive, year-end reading guide. It has hundreds of titles and cute categories with names like It's All Geek to Me and Let's Talk About Sex, plus more conventional categories like Biography & Memoir and Kids' Books.
- The 2020 National Book Awards feature winners in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people's literature. The winner in adult fiction is the multigenerational epic Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu.
- BBC Culture's The best books of the year 2020 features Transcendent Kingdom, by Ghanaian-American author Yaa Gyasi. Her new novel is on several best of 2020 lists.
- New York Public Library's Best Books of 2020 covers interesting genres beyond fiction and nonfiction, like graphic novels, kids' books in Spanish, and the unique Best Books: Titles Available in Accessible Formats.
- The Goodreads Best Books of 2020 is the monster book list with over 900 titles to lose yourself in.
And so, gentle reader, that leaves just me. My favorite book of 2020 is the brilliantly written historical novel, News of the World, by Paulette Jiles. You may cavil that it was a National Book Award finalist in 2016, but at least I got to read it before the movie based on the book starring Tom Hanks comes out on Christmas Day.
Conspiracy Theories Unmasked
Fake news and conspiracy theories abound and are probably with us for the foreseeable future. David Robson of The Guardian recently did a piece called It's only fake-believe: how to deal with a conspiracy theorist, This insightful article explores the logic common to many conspiracy theories and the best ways to respond to them. One example is a fallacy of claiming "some kind of causal connection from a random coincidence." For example, the arrival of 5G cellular technology at roughly the same time as the coronavirus. Just a coincidence? Yes. It's just a coincidence.
Library Automation Perceptions
Library technologist Marshall Breeding is currently surveying libraries on library automation perceptions. The survey asks about your satisfaction with strategic technology products and quality of support. He is interested in the perspectives of both library personnel involved in administering systems as well as those who work in libraries using them. If you would like to participate, find the survey here.
Ford Foundation's Free New Cybersecurity Assessment Tool
Are you a bit rattled by all the ransomware mayhem going on? Virus Bulletin reports that Ford Foundation has launched a free new cybersecurity assessment tool for libraries and nonprofits. It's in a nontechnical, 30-minute survey format. The free tool, which is currently in beta, is designed to help organizations develop a general sense of the maturity of their existing cybersecurity programs and also identify potential components to consider adding or improving.
Weird but Useful Gifts
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes of ZDNet has some fun weird but useful gift ideas.
- I like the $99 BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool, which is a Star Trek tricorder–looking car diagnostic gadget that matches your vehicle's make, model, and trouble codes to a specific fix from a database of millions of repairs. It lets you know exactly what's wrong with your car before you take it into the shop.
- Then there's the KeySmart CleanTray UVC Sanitizer. It's an $80 gadget about the size of a book that quickly sanitizes phones, face masks, earbuds, jewelry, glasses, computer mice, and library cards under UV light.
- If you're like me and could really use some exercise about now, there's a high-tech jump rope called a Crossrope Get Lean Jump Rope. Very cool.
- Then of course there are the hundreds of book lover gifts on Zazzle like the $13 Face Mask for Book Lovers.
- And … there's the annual American Libraries magazine 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Librarians and Book Lovers. The miniature chocolate books look tasty.
Move Over, Book Clubs — Meet Video Streaming Clubs
Looking for a fun alternative to book clubs? This may not quite be a library thing yet, but I chanced to speak to Jeff Asher in Pauling, New York. He is doing something interesting that you might like. He is organizing his own video streaming club. Jeff convenes a group of friends who choose Netflix movies to watch during specific weeks and after each viewing, meet via zoom to talk about the experience. Tools are coming online for organizing such events now.
The Verge reports that apps like Scener allow people to stream Netflix, Disney Plus, and HBO titles with friends in the United States. Twitch now lets anyone host an online movie party with the Amazon Prime video library. Organizing a video streaming club may be a good way to keep patrons engaged during the long pandemic months to come and also promote the streaming services your library offers like IndieFlix, OverDrive Video, Kanopy, hoopla, or even the free movies from the Library of Congress.
Drone Delivery of Library Materials in Virginia
The ever-vigilant David Lee King posted this on Twitter. Trevor Mogg of Digital Trends reports that the Google-owned Wing drone delivery service has been dropping off library books among other things to residents of Christiansburg in Virginia for the past 12 months. Residents say that they saw the service as a kind of novelty when it first launched, but then, when the pandemic struck, considered it a more important means of assistance.
We hope you like our latest batch of newsbytes this month!