Wednesday 26 May 2010

The scoop on ebook readers

The Wall Street Journal's Personal Technology department has published an article that discusses the wide variety of ebook readers on the market - as well as the mechanisms for purchasing and downloading ebooks from various sources. The author talks about the good and bad points in all of them and concludes that "For now, the e-bookstore choice comes down to which compromises readers are willing to accept. "

Students Prefer Print Over Digital Textbooks

The National Assn. of College Stores recently commissioned a survey of college students and has reported some findings: 74% of students prefer print textbooks to digital and 53% are unsure if they would buy digital textbooks.

Greening Interlibrary load procedures

OCLC has published a report (64 page pdf) that they commissioned on how libraries can reduce their carbon footprint through greener ILL practices. Nothing especially earth-shattering: The single most important finding of the study is that an ILL unit can cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half simply by re-using packaging materials.
A succint summation of the recommendations:
"The assumed effectiveness of common-sense practices to reduce ILL’s impact on the environment is borne out by scientific analysis:
• Re-use is preferable to New
• Ground is preferable to Air
• Near is preferable to Far
• Aggregation is preferable to 1X1
• Nylon bags are preferable to Plastic bins (unless the bins are always shipped full)
• 30% recycled paper equals New."

Tuesday 25 May 2010

WestlawNext discussion

There has been some confusion about the WestlawNext rollout caused to some extent by mixed messages that West is sending out. Greg Lambert over at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog has been reporting. First, that the Westlaw website said that everyone with access would also have access to WestlawNext with their One Pass ID starting on June 1st. Then someone at ThomsonReuters explained that this is NOT the case, that WestlawNext and OnePassIDs will NOT be linked on June 1.

Your privacy on Google

Computerworld features an article titled The smart paranoid's guide to using Google. The article points out that many of us have used Google for all sorts of things, including Search and Gmail; and all sorts of information may be stored on Google's servers. Like data about your habits, interests, activities, schedule, professional pursuits, stock portfolio and medical history, records of the trip routes you've mapped, and the Web sites you've visited. Google "anonymizes" user IP addresses after 9 months and cookies after 18 months. But if you want more privacy than that, the Computerworld article offers some precautions that will minimize any security risks.

Monday 17 May 2010

E-book Readers

There are lots of ebook readers available - how to know which one to get? This website is a table comparing the features of a wide variety of ebook readers.

hat tip: Lyo Louis-Jacques

A new look for PACER

Over the weekend the administrative office of the US federal courts unveiled an all-new look for the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) website. We haven't had a chance to study the new site, but at least it looks like a real professionally designed site, which is a big step.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Open Graph and social media

A couple of weeks ago Facebook unveiled what CEO Mark Zuckerberg said is "the most transformative thing we've ever done for the Web." The "thing" is a platform called Open Graph, and it allows sites and apps to share information about users in order to tailor offers, features and services to an individual's interests and tastes — even if that individual has never visited the site before. CNN's report likened "Open Graph" to turning the internet into one big cocktail party. Open Graph was launched with more than 30 content partners, including The New York Times, Yelp, Pandora, CNN, ESPN and the Internet Movie Database. When you visit these sites now, you will see the Facebook "like it" thumbs up icon; when you click on it the site is recorded on your Facebook page and is sent out as a post to your friends and networks.
The Thicket State Legislatures blog reports that state legislatures are increasingly adopting social media, and says that the National Conference of State Legislatures is currently tracking the number of legislative social media sites across the country, along with policies for social media use on these sites.

More mentally ill people in jail than hospitals

A new study (22 page pdf) by he Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs' Association finds that Americans with severe mental illnesses are three times more likely to be in jail or prison than in a psychiatric hospital. The director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to removing barriers to timely and effective treatment of severe mental illnesses, says that "America’s jails and prisons have once again become our mental hospitals. With minimal exception, incarceration has replaced hospitalization for thousands of individuals in every single state.”
According to the report, it is now extremely difficult to find a bed for a seriously mentally ill person who needs to be hospitalized. In 1955 there was one psychiatric bed for every 300 Americans. In 2005 there was one psychiatric bed for every 3,000 Americans.
The report includes statistics for each state.

Genomic testing in your local drugstore

Technology Review's Editors Blog has a post that tells how genome test kits will be available this month at your local drugstore. For a few years now there have been a few companies that offer direct-to-consumer gene testing over the internet: 23 and me, Navigenics, and DeCodeMe .
Now genomic testing is going mainstream, as a company called Pathway Genomics will begin selling DNA testing kits at Walgreens drugstores this month.
Users of the kits will have to send in their saliva sample and then go to Pathway's website to select the particular test they want. Users choose from drug response ($79), which assesses how well an individual can metabolize certain drugs, predicting the best dosage for that person or whether they will be susceptible to certain side effects; pre-pregnancy planning ($179), which determines whether parents carry mutations for serious genetic diseases; health conditions ($179), which assesses risk for a number of conditions, including diabetes, Alzheimer's, prostate cancer and more; or a combination of all three ($249). The kits won't be sold in New York because the state's laws require medical professionals to be involved in this type of testing.

Amazon using Kindle owners' highlighting

MSNBC's Red Tape Chronicles reports that some Amazon Kindle (ebook reader) users are concerned about a new feature whereby Amazon will now remotely upload and store user notes and highlights from Kindle, which it then compiles into "popular highlights". Just as readers can use highlighters or make notes in the margins of print books, ebook readers offer users the ability to highlight text and make notes about what they are reading. Kindle users who highlight passages will now have a record of those highlights sent back to Amazon servers - and many users don't realize that this is happening. An Amazon spokesman denied that the new service raises any privacy issues with consumers, comparing it to the popular "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..." feature on

Monday 10 May 2010

Federal lobbying industry database is now offering a new resource in its free resources section, the Factors of Influence Chart. This new feature allows you to sort's comprehensive database on the federal lobbying industry by nine critical areas and serves as an easy way to rank over 2,800 lobbying firms by the most influential criteria in the industry, including: number of employees, clients, issue areas, income and Congressional connections.

Webcast from conference on civil litigation in federal courts

A two-day conference on civil litigation in federal courts, sponsored by the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules and conducted at the Duke University School of Law, will be streamed live over the Internet this week, starting 8:15 a.m. Monday, May 10. The purpose of the 2 day conference is to explore the current costs of civil litigation, particularly discovery, and to discuss possible solutions. The Conference will rely on new empirical research done by the Federal Judicial Center to assess the degree of satisfaction with the performance of the present system and the suggestions of lawyers as to how the system can be improved. This research will be supplemented by additional empirical data. A major portion of the Conference will be devoted to an assessment and discussion of the empirical research.
You can watch the webcast online using RealPlayer, which is free to download here.

Facebook and privacy

Ryan Singel, writing in Wired magazine, decries the way Facebook has chipped away at its users' privacy and calls for an alternative that would let users take control of their own information. And last Wednesday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint (38 page pdf) with the Federal Trade Commission, demanding that Facebook cancel new features introduced in mid-April that compel users to share more information than before.
Here's a graphical representation of "The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook" over the past 5 years.

HeinOnline World Constitutions database webinar

Last week HeinOnline held a webinar that discussed and explained the new database World Constitutions Illustrated. This database contains thousands of contemporary and historical resources and custom features to enable you to browse and search across the constitutional law of more than 190 countries. The video of this webinar is now available from Hein's video library; you can access it via the HeinOnline wiki Webinars page.

New content & organizing in FRASER

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has added some new content to their website that is highlighted on the What's New Archive page. In partnership with the brookings Institution they are digitizing the archival collection of the Committee on the History of the Federal Reserve. They have also made some changes to the home page of FRASER, the Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research; they have organized material into topical collections, like this one on Depressions and Panics. One of the digital documents from this collection is an interesting timeline chart from the 1940's that shows Business Booms & Depressions since 1775.

Friday 7 May 2010

Link Rot & legal resources

The Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive has just published its 3rd annual study of link rot among the original urls for web-published legal materials. Link rot, according to the study, describes “a URL that no longer provides direct access to files matching the content originally harvested from the URL and currently preserved in the Chesapeake Project’s digital archive. In some instances, a 404 or ‘not found’ message indicates link rot at a URL; in others, the URL may direct to a site hosted by the original publishing organization or entity, but the specific resource has been removed or relocated from the original or previous URL.”
In the 3 years since the launch of the Chesapeake Project, researchers have found that link rot increased from about one in every 12 archived titles in 2008, to one in every seven titles in 2009, and finally to about one in every 3.5 titles in 2010.
All of the Web resources described in the report that have disappeared from their original locations on the Web remain accessible via permanent archive URLs at, thanks to the Chesapeake Project's efforts.

Comedian wins defamation suit by mother-in-law

Here's a charming story just in time for Mother's Day. The ABA Journal reports that a federal judge in New Jersey has ruled that stand-up comedian Sunda Croonquist's mother-in-law jokes were statements of opinion protected by the First Amendment. U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper of New Jersey concluded that the examples cited — including one in which Croonquist says her sister-in-law's voice sounds like a cat in heat — fell under the category of protected speech. The suit was filed by Croonquist’s mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law, and claimed defamation, infliction of emotional distress, false light and unjust enrichment. The plaintiffs targeted video clips on Croonquist’s website and comments on her blog. Croonquist was represented in the suit by her husband’s law firm, Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Greenberg, Formato & Einiger in New York.

2010 Public Online Information Act

The Helena (MT) Independent Record reports that Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) has introduced a bill ( S. 3321) in the Senate called the 2010 Public Online Information Act. The bill would require the federal government to post all public documents and records in a free, searchable online database. The bill also would create an independent advisory committee to issue guidelines for making public information accessible online. The bill allows government offices to exempt some documents from the database if they explain why making them public could cause harm.
The bill expands the statutory definition of a government record to include "contracts entered into by persons working as agents of the federal government, including records in the possession of government contractors." A companion measure in the House, H.R. 4858 , does not require agencies to disclose contracts. Other documents that would be required to be put online: details about executive agency travel paid for by outside parties; details of lobbying activity; and financial disclosures by government officials.
Senator Tester's bill has the support of the Sunlight Foundation, an organization dedicated to making government transparent and accountable.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Comparison: WestlawNext & Westlaw

Westlaw has posted a helpful Quick Reference Guide (8 page pdf) that lists corresponding features and functionality on Westlaw and WestlawNext, including finding documents, selecting content to search, searching for information, viewing results, browsing documents, checking citations, and delivering information.

Law schools charged with discriminating against blind students

The PR newswire reports that the National Federation of the Blind has filed complaints with the DOJ civil rights division against nine law schools. They accused the schools of violating the rights of blind would-be law students by using the Law School Admission Council's (LSAC) online application process. The 9 law schools are U. Chicago, Cardozo, John Marshall, U. of Denver, U. of Miami, Washington & Lee, William Mitchell, Gonzaga and Northeastern. According to the complaints the LSAC's streamlined online application system, which makes it easier to submit applications to different schools, is not compatible with software that vocalizes visual information or displays it in Braille for blind users. This means that blind users can't use the LSAC system without the assistance of a sighted person.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Gulf of Mexico Transocean Drilling Incident

A govdocs librarian at the University of South Alabama in Mobile has created a webpage where she is gathering links to government information about the Gulf of Mexico oil drilling accident. She continues to update the page as more information comes in. Included are NASA pictures of the oil spill as it moves towards the Mississippi Delta.