Category Archives: Reviews

August 19, 2010, 7:52 pm

I read my first ebook… all the way through

I read my first ebook from start to finish. Sure, I’ve dabbled with ebooks before, I’ve even bought a few for my iPhone, but a few weeks ago I read one cover to cover over one weekend. Granted the book was awesome, but the thing about reading a good book is the fact that the content is great, not the tangible qualities of the paper. When I finished I wanted to download another.


The iPad is my eReader of choice. I’ll skip a review of the features because you can find that elsewhere, but it’s the first time I honestly felt that I could transition away from print.


Anyway. I came across a series of posts:


The author makes good points on both sides of the argument, but I wanted to address one: texture. The author raves about the “feel” of print but as a (former?) print book…

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July 5, 2010, 6:03 pm

Happy New (Fiscal) Year! A quick review of COUPA

Last month we started using COUPA
as our procurement software. Our business officer has been very determined to
move us away from traditional paper slips and into the digital age of ordering.
It’s definitely the direction we need to go!


One of the really cool features of the software is the
ability to tag items with keywords such as preservation
or publicity to give us a better
sense of budgeting targets and actual expenses.


Everything fits into customized categories, so it will be
great to look back over the year and see exactly who is buying what and when. I
imagine this could lead to bulk ordering in the future along with a more
streamlined inventory.


It’s great too because it gives us an ordering chain with
built-in approvals. So when one of my staff requests something I get an email—I
can approve or deny it—it then goes along to the next level depending on cost. If

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May 10, 2010, 4:19 pm

Need Homework Help? Don’t ask us! A review of Course Hero’s reference service (Part 2 of 3)

I found Course Hero’s Homework Help to be very tempting. Here
is the screen you are greeted with when you first log-in:


Inviting, huh? And pretty straightforward. Subject. Ability
to attach your assignment. Your Due Date & Time. Submit it and then you just chill and wait while the
experts work on your homework.


Here is how it works:


And who are these experts? Tutors who are allegedly affiliated with top tier universities. Let's meet a few:


Ok, great. Let’s give them a test. I started with a fairly common question that you might get at any ref desk or via email or chat or txt around the country:

"I need to find
three "peer-reviewed" articles for my english class. I have to write
about Hawthorne and the occult. I was looking on google but can't seem to get
the full articles, just some abstracts?”

 This is the response I received:


"Us" huh? Got a team…

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April 21, 2010, 12:25 pm

Building A User-Generated e-Reserve System: a glance into the archives of CourseHero (part 1)

post “
File Sharers Swap Scholarly Materials

has been the most read item on this blog. People seem to really like that theme
so I’ll explore it a bit more. Often when we talk about Open Access,
Institutional Repositories, the Publishing Crisis, or similar topics it tends
to be very esoteric. There is a lot of rhetoric, debate, and models that honestly
I think only accountants and lawyers can get excited about. I’m not so sure
that the average faculty member really cares about the economics of the
publishing industry or a court’s interpretation of fair use. We’ll save that
for another day.

I’m really interested in is how all this stuff applies to the world outside of
libraries. I found it fascinating that The
Pirate Bay
had some (expensive) academic materials and not just Jay-Z
tracks or episodes of LOST. So, what if there was a site designed to collect

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March 30, 2010, 2:25 pm

The Secret New Steelcase Chair: I wish I could tell you more

Read about the Node (June 13, 2010)


I saw a really cool furniture product today. Our Steelcase
reps were kind enough to bring it by. Unfortunately I can’t reveal anymore than

It is still semi-secret due to competitive reasons, but I
believe more info will be available publicly in May/June. Ask your local
Steelcase rep about it—they might be able to demo it for you, but they are keeping it under wraps, literally.

[content removed-- for now]

I really hate to put up a teaser post like this, but I don’t
want to get my people in trouble. I know that someone at the Steelcase Headquarters reads my blog so let me know if I can reveal a bit more! 

ps: IDEO helped design it so you know it is awesome.


Update. Well, I had a voicemail this morning from Steelcase asking me to remove a paragraph from this post. They were nice about it and didn't say…

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March 26, 2010, 1:48 pm

If you have a serious question don’t turn to KGB: the story of how this for-profit text ref service fails

A few years ago during the
NCAA Basketball Tournament Questia
was dropping a lot of cash on commercials, essentially trying to lure college
kids (or their parents) into monthly subscriptions for materials that most of
them probably already had access to. The real product though wasn’t the books
and articles per se, but the idea of getting information via an easy-to-use
centralized interface. A dream that academic libraries have failed to provide
(although we’re getting closer with products like SUMMON.)

This year I’ve been seeing
ads for the text service KGB. They are
not a new company, in fact I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time but
it took a
state holiday
to free up the time. Anyway KGB purports to offer “high-quality
answers on the go” for 99 cents. They are appealing to mobile users everywhere
who just want answers. Looking at their sample questions online the…

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