19th century books meet 21st century scanners

Logo100 Because  of my love for e-books I always get a little over-excited when I hear of a new 'digitising books' project and it probably doesn't get a lot more exciting than this one (mainly because it has an historical element to it as well :o)). The British Library have announced that it's currently in the process of digitising more than 100,000, mainly 19th century books, which were previously unavailable to the public.

While I can't (yet) find any details on the scanning process or scanning equipment itself, you can be sure this is one seriously labourious undertaking (the first 25 million pages are expected to take 2 years to complete). However the British Library are no strangers to this kind of project having already completed the Early English Books Online project (EEBO) and Eighteenth Century Collections Online project (ECCO).

The resultant e-books of this new collection will be initially available online via Microsoft's Live Search Books before also becoming available through the British Library's own website.

Anyway the BBC have a comprehensive rundown of all of the mind-boggling facts and figures relating to this project i.e. it's expected that 50,000 pages will be scanned each working day at full production, so I invite you to head over there.

Microsoft SURFACE's with a new technology

Surface_logoMicrosoft could well have paperless operatives jumping for joy soon, following the announcement of their new computing technology - SURFACE. Based around a 30 inch screen, presented in the form of a table (or a giant TabletPC as it looks to me :o)), Microsoft's killer concept focuses on a more natural and intuative way of interacting with computers. I think Microsoft can explain the concept of 'surface computing' much better than I can so here's a quote direct from the horse's mouth:

Surface computing is a new way of working with computers that moves beyond the traditional mouse-and-keyboard experience. It is a natural user interface that allows people to interact with digital content the same way they have interacted with everyday items such as photos, paintbrushes and music their entire life: with their hands, with gestures and by putting real-world objects on the surface.

Sounds a bit tasty doesn't it? Well it gets even more so when you go along to the SURFACE website and check out the 'teaser' videos. I've watched them a couple of times (3 video clips in total) and, aside from viewing all of the other geeky goodness, I particularly love the concept of plonking a digital camera onto the table screen and all of the images on the camera are digitally scattered in front of you allowing you to view and fully manipulate each and every one of them....Sweet!!


The real winner for me though has to be this natural 'invisible' interface. Surely a computer that uses nothing more than hands and real world gestures to interact with it has got to encourage even the most ardent technophobe to embrace the technology and adopt a more paperless lifestyle? I think (and hope) so.

However while the concept of naturally interacting with the table-esque 30 inch screen at the home/office/school is an appealing one it doesn't really infuse a lot of excitement for the mobile paperless operative does it? Well thankfuly there's nothing to suggest that Microsoft can't and won't incorporate this surface technology into a more portable format offering the infinitely useful ability of being able to interact in the same intuative naturalistic way.

I can see it now. I spend all day inking lecture notes on my TabletPC and then I come home plonk the TabletPC on my 'surface table' and all of the day's notes 'fall out' onto the table allowing me to review and sort them in the full scale virtual environment - Seriously I can't wait to see where Microsoft go with this new technology. I think there's going to be exciting times ahead :o)::via TUAW

Turning the pages of Leonardo’s notebooks

Imagine my delight when I discovered (through GottaBeMobile) that the British Library (an ‘homegrown’ initiative for a change :o)) have released an online digital book application Turning the Pages 2.0 which allows us, the common people, to get up close and personal to some of the most historical and revered books in the world. Imagine my further delight when I realised one of the featured titles is nothing more than one of hero’s notebooks (Leonardo daVinci) – absolutely magnificent. Other featured titles include Mozart’s musical diary, Jane Austen’s early works and of particular interest to a Mediaeval/Islamic historian like me a 1570 Atlas of Europe and an early Mamluk Qur’an in all of its sumptuous glory.

Be warned though, Turning the Pages 2.0 is primarily primed for the new Vista platform but you are able to access the titles if you are running WinXP (with service pack 2) and .NET 3.0 framework. The screenshot above is from the lowly Shockwave version of Turning the Pages as that's the best I can run on my antiquated computers.

I’m delighted with Turning the Pages 2.0 though (even though I haven't seen it in all of it's Vista glory) because aside from giving availability of rare titles to all of us, this method of delivery negates the need to reproduce these titles in printed format. What’s more the British Library have given us a teaser of what’s possible in relation to delivery historical books electronically and if libraries all over the world start using digital book applications like this, which I’m sure they will, then all of us are in for a very special treat!!

Amazon 'kindle' the e-book market

This device may look like a prop that William Shatner wielded around some alien landscape in an episode of Star Trek but it is actually Amazon's new e-book reader the Kindle. Sporting a 600 x 800 electrophoretic display the Kindle is fully rechargable and comes with 256 meg of flash memory, wireless modem and an SD card and headphone socket (to facilatate audiobooks?) making the unit a competitive match for the eagerly awaited Sony Reader (provided the price is right)

I'm all for e-book readers. Any device that makes our world less paper dependent is fine by me. However I'm also a little concerned that this battle to corner the e-book market may cancel out the environmental benefits as consumers are forced to purchase multiple e-book devices to cope with multiple e-book formats. I guess only time will tell ::via EndGadget

Epigraphists set to ‘bury’ pen and paper in favour of AutoCad

RevezautocadAccording to National Geographic News Jean Revez, professor of Egyptian history at the University of Montreal in Canada, is developing a high-tech scanning technique that  uses a modified version of AutoCad to allow epigraphists (archeologists who interpret ancient inscriptions) to complete their work faster and easier in a fully paperless manner.

Currently epigraphists use tracing paper over photographic images of monuments to map out targeted inscriptions. As a result, as any good epigraphist could tell you (such as Peter Brand working at the Temple of Karnak site), an epigraphist’s job can be highly time consuming and laborious.

However thanks to Prof. Revez, epigraphists may find they now have a little more time on their hands. He and his development team’s modified version of AutoCad allows for images of an inscription covered monument to be combined leaving epigraphists with a complete digital model of the monument which they can manipulate and scan to their heart’s content.

The new article also mentions another digitally based archeological tool being developed by Dimitri Laboury of the University of Liège in Belgium so head over there if your curiosity has been sparked.  ::via Notebookism

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