Thursday, 27 September 2007

iPhone for eBooks?

The iPhone and recently-released iTouch are gathering a bit of attention as an eBook platform.

As this article from Tim O'Reilly points out, Apple already has quite an effective distribution platform in the form of iTunes, and there's speculation about Apple extending its reach to encompass eBooks, and publishers HarperCollins have even launched an eBook service tailored for the iPhone.

The iPhone and iTouch have pretty good resolution displays (about 160ppi — twice that of a PC screen), and the actual user interface is getting lots of praise for its ability to deal with presenting web-based content on a small device — have a look at the guided tour video of the iTouch from the Apple site.

There are a number of custom-made solutions out there already including one being developed on the Google code site, though often they're a little bit fiddly to install and use.

Given the iPhone / iTouch's use of a fully-fledged browser (Safari), it may be that the eventual mechanism for reading eBooks on these devices will be browser-based. Although you can use Safari on the iPhone / iTouch to read PDFs and HTML pages, the current obstacle to eBook reading is the fact the the browser only works well when in a place of WiFi reception — there's not a good mechanism of cached or offline browsing (though Apple's in bed with Google, and Google Gears would do the trick). Again, so people have been busy trying to find ways to overcome this hurdle, including the use of the mostly forgotten data URL standard.

At the moment, the iPhone / iTouch is not quite there for eBook reading, largely due to the problem of easily accessing content offline but it wouldn't take too much for Apple (or a capable hacker) to solve this.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

J C Beaglehole: James Cook Essay Collection

The latest addition to the NZETC collection is a series of essays by John Cawte Beaglehole on James Cook. J C Beaglehole was an internationally acknowledged historian and Cook scholar. In preparation for the massive three volumes of "The journals of Captain James Cook on his voyages of discovery" and the acclaimed biography "The life of Captain James Cook" he published a series of papers and lectures, ten of which the NZETC has now gathered together and republished online. The essays, dating from 1956 to 1970, cover both aspects of Cook's character and the process of editing the journals:

"On the Character of Captain Cook"
"Some of the Problems of Editing Cook's Journals"
"The Death of Captain Cook"
"The Wandering Scholars"
"Captain Cook and Captain Bligh"
"Cook the Navigator"
"Some problems of Cook's biographer"
"Eighteenth Century Science and the Voyages of Discovery"
"Cook the Man"
"Cook the Writer"

The NZETC is able to publish these texts online thanks to the kind permission of Professor Tim Beaglehole, Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington. These essays add to a small collection of letters and academic works by J C Beaglehole already available as part of the NZETC collection

Monday, 10 September 2007

Pacific Memory of the World

An article on the Pacific Memory of the World Project appeared in the July issues of
Islands Business
. The NZETC undertook the research upon which the project is based in 2006. An extract from the article is reprinted below. The full text can be found

"There are currently no items from the Pacific and the purpose of the Pacific MOW Register is to build awareness for the global programme and to have up to six Pacific items inscribed on the global list during the next UNESCO medium term (2008 to 2013).

Spearheaded by the Communication and Information sector of UNESCO’s Apia office, the Pacific region will be pitching for inclusion in the global MOW project as a collective body of countries.

The Pacific Register was completed in 2006 and the Apia Office will be working with the Australian MOW committee to build a website, said Caine.

So far, the Pacific MOW register has identified over 300 national documents from 14 Pacific islands countries as having historical significance.

While it may be argued that Pacific islands nations should be the ones to make the decisions on what documents qualify as having historical and national significance, the level of awareness on the need to preserve memory and the UNESCO MOW Programme is very low, according to Caine.

“Ideally, each Pacific islands country should form a national IFAP (Information For All Programme) Committee who would agree on the list and priority ranking, ultimate ownership/custodianship of the item, as well as work to inscribe the item of the global MOW register. The committee should consist of all national stakeholders and infostructures.”

As this was not often the case in the Pacific, the task of locating and digitising documents on the Pacific MOW register as well as the footing of costs involved are left in the hands of UNESCO Apia.

While progress has been achieved with the list of important documents from the region, PICs may as well suffer from historical amnesia as the existence of a number of those documents are not known and therefore, it is not clear whether they can be located for digitisation.

Documents relating to the election of Niue’s King in 1878 for example, or the sale of Micronesia to Germany by Spain in 1885, are among the many others from across the 14 PICs whose whereabouts are not known.

Caine said this formed part of the challenges in getting the Pacific MOW Programme together.

Most of the listed items have disappeared or there is only vague knowledge of the last location.

When there has been contact with the ‘owners’ or holders of the items, negotiation for the return of the items have been hampered by either the purchase or ‘transfer fee’ or the owners’ real concerns of the ability of the country to properly maintain the items, he said.

Caine urged PICs to take ownership of this project and to see it as “a source of collective pride and joy from being able to remember their history and how it formed their identity”.