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Tom Peters's Posts

The Margins of Marginalia

Submitted by Tom Peters on May 2, 2011 - 8:25am

In the damp, dark, twisting catacombs of this long digital revolution that eventually will lead to the bright future of eReading, marginalia may be the lowly canary.  Marginalia, that wonderfully eccentric habit of writing in the margins of printed books, has become an object of scrutiny and some concern.  Coleridge, Melville, Twain, David Foster Wallace, and a host of others made marginalia into a form of literary expression.  If printed books are being marginalized, what is the future of marginalia?

Of course, we’re talking about writing in the margins of personally owned copies.  Writing in the margins of library books is a no-no.  Ditto for underlining and highlighting.  Very boorish behavior and fodder for fines and polite chastisement.  Read More »

An Interview with Lendle's Brian Ford

Submitted by Tom Peters on April 4, 2011 - 9:33am

Last Friday Brian Ford, one of the co-founders of, an ebook lending service for Kindle editions, sat down with Tom Peters to talk about the wild and woolly month of March Lendle experienced. Lendle had to close down briefly and unexpectedly in March when Amazon blocked access to their API. This resulted in an equally unexpected amount of media attention and public outrage. Tom and Brian discuss not only this March Madness, but also the longer term issues and opportunities for authors, rights holders, publishers, libraries, and readers.

  Read More »

I Profess Everything

Submitted by Tom Peters on March 10, 2011 - 9:04am

Approximately 22 years ago I had a memorable conversation with a university English professor.  One Friday afternoon we were bandying about the idea of faculty status for librarians – back then a hot topic at a particular university.

English Professor:  If librarians want to become professors, what do they profess? 
Librarian Me:  Rather than focus on a particular subject area (such as English literature, political science, or physics), we profess how information is created, found, accessed, used, organized, and archived by humans.

It was playful academic banter, but my memory of the exchange has lingered across the decades. 

Then, early on Monday morning, March 7, 2011, I noticed that James Gleick has a new book out:  The Information:  A History, a Theory, a Flood, published by Pantheon, an imprint of KnopfDoubleday.  Read More »

E-Book Lending Clubs

Submitted by Tom Peters on February 23, 2011 - 9:30am

As far as I can tell, Barnes & Noble started it all when, as they were preparing to launch their Nook device and service in late 2009 and wanted to differentiate it from Amazon’s existing Kindle service, they decided to allow one legitimate lending of a Nook ebook (the etext, not the device) for a two week period.  Some librarians I spoke with about this Nook lending option scoffed at it.  One opportunity to lend an ebook over the life of your ownership does not seem like much.  I even joked about how this could cause interpersonal distress.  “I thought I was your primary Nook friend.”  Most librarians I spoke with saw little or no relationship between this form of elending and the type of public good, institutional elending that libraries and library users want and need. Read More »

At ALA Midwinter, Or Not

Submitted by Tom Peters on January 14, 2011 - 8:56am

As usual, ALA Midwinter was exciting, informative, and exhausting.  I was able to attend in person, but I know many colleagues who were not able to make the trek to San Diego, which was generally sunny but a tad chilly.  I’m looking forward to the post-Midwinter webinar that ALA TechSource will hold on Wed. Jan. 19th (  Read More »

Kno it all

Submitted by Tom Peters on January 5, 2011 - 10:11am

There are four occasions for reading:  school, work, avocational reading, and incidental reading.  Nearly all of the reading we do for school and work is assigned reading.  Someone else tells us what to read.  Incidental reading occurs when you read in the context of doing something else.  Two examples:  reading road signs as you drive, and reading the cereal box as you munch in the morning.  Avocational reading, also called reading for pleasure or leisure reading, is volitional reading.  We freely choose to read, and we choose what, how, and where to read. Read More »

First Impressions on Google's New Bookstore

Submitted by Tom Peters on December 8, 2010 - 9:03am

The Google ebookstore ( officially opened on Monday.  At launch, Google ebooks are available only in the U.S., but they plan to go international in 2011.  On Day One Google claimed to offer the world's largest selection of ebooks, with “...nearly 3 million free ebooks and hundreds of thousands of titles that are ready for purchase.”  If and when the dust settles on the Google Book Settlement, those numbers should rise substantially.  Read More »

Marred by Shelving

Submitted by Tom Peters on November 15, 2010 - 10:03am

The battle for the right to lend ebooks has begun.  It is being fought in board rooms, in backrooms, and in bedrooms.  It is being fought at sales counters and at circulation counters, by web counters and by bean counters.  It is being fought on land, at sea, in the air, on the net, and in outer space.  It is being fought on both sides of the Atlantic.  Sinister u-boats have been spotted lurking off the Jersey coast, waiting to sink errant ebooks.

If I had it in me, this is the point where I would launch into some rousing rhetoric in the proud tradition of Henry V at Agincourt, of Teddy Roosevelt at the foot of San Juan Hill, of FDR, and of Churchill.  To the ramparts, readers!  We must save the lending library!

Alas, I don’t have it in me, so let’s just look at some recent developments. Read More »

On the Map

Submitted by Tom Peters on October 13, 2010 - 8:44am

My friends and family will tell you that I’m an AMN (Amateur Map Nut).  The symptoms first appeared decades ago, before computerization.  In my office I still have (and frequently consult!) the Times Atlas of the World, the Rand McNally Atlas of the World, the MapQuest Road Atlas, the Rand McNally Road Atlas (both the current year and the 1960 version, so I can see how road networks and urban areas looked before they were sliced and diced by the interstate highway system), the AA Road Atlas of Britain, A-Z London Street Guide, and a host of state and city maps distributed free of charge by tourism offices and chambers of commerce.  I’ve even feigned being an outsider at local offices just to obtain maps.  I’m an AMN, tried and true.
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Exclusive Interview: Pocketbook

Submitted by Tom Peters on September 24, 2010 - 9:05am

I’m an avid follower of portable eReading developments, with umpteen Google Alerts set up for just about every product and keyword.  These days, my incoming email tends to be about 10 percent legitimate stuff, about 40 percent spam (with a curious glut of ads for discount vacations for the French – “We’re from France.”), and 50 percent alerts about eReaders.

Earlier this month I noticed an alert about a Kiev-based device manufacturer called Pocketbook International ( that had just announced five new models of eReading devices at the IFA Exhibition in Berlin (  The devices seem to be very open and flexible, with little or nothing proprietary about them.   
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