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Weekly News Digest

February 8, 2022 — In addition to this week's NewsBreaks article and the monthly NewsLink Spotlight, Information Today, Inc. (ITI) offers Weekly News Digests that feature recent product news and company announcements. Watch for additional coverage to appear in the next print issue of Information Today. For other up-to-the-minute news, check out ITIís Twitter account: @ITINewsBreaks.

CLICK HERE to view more Weekly News Digest items.

'Synthetic Voices Want to Take Over Audiobooks' by Tom Simonite

Tom Simonite writes the following for WIRED:

Synthetic voices have become less grating in recent years, in part due to artificial intelligence research by companies such as Google and Amazon, which compete to offer virtual assistants and cloud services with smoother artificial tones. Those advances have also been used to make reality-spoofing “deepfakes.” Speechki is one of several startups developing speech synthesis for audiobooks. It analyzes text with in-house software to mark up how to inflect different words, voices it with technology adapted from cloud providers including Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, and employs proof listeners who check for mistakes. Google is testing its own “auto-narration” service that publishers can use to generate English audiobooks for free, using more than 20 different synthetic voices. Audiobooks published through the program include an academic history of theater and a novelist’s exploration of cultural attitudes to sex. …

Some publishers see synthetic voices as a way to tap the growing demand for audiobooks, a segment healthier than other parts of the book business. Total US book publisher revenue declined slightly between 2015 and 2020 and ebook revenue shrank, but audiobook revenue surged by 157 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers. Consumers have steadily grown more comfortable with the format, helped along by technical improvements to mobile apps, smart speakers, and wireless headphones. But due to the cost of a narrator and audio production, most titles never become audiobooks, particularly at smaller publishers. …

[S]tartups say they are not a threat to professional narrators because their technology will be used to make audiobooks that would not otherwise have been recorded. ‘Human and synthetic narration can thrive side by side—there’s plenty of work,’ says Bill Wolfsthal, a book industry veteran helping Speechki with business development.

For more information, read the article.

ALA Responds to New Development in Maryland Ebook Lawsuit

ALA announced the following:

A federal district court held a hearing [Feb. 7] on the State of Maryland’s new law on library digital book access, which was challenged by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) in a lawsuit filed December 9, 2021. The Maryland law, which took effect on January 1, 2022, requires publishers to offer licenses for digital books and other electronic literary products to public libraries ‘on reasonable terms’ if the materials are available to the Maryland public.

During the hearing, Judge Deborah L. Boardman of the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland stated, ‘It does seem to me that there is inequity and an unfairness on how publishers have treated public libraries.’

ALA’s statement in response reads, in part, “ALA commends attorneys in the Office of the Maryland Attorney General for their vigorous defense of the law and rightly arguing that the Maryland law is neither preempted by federal copyright law nor by the U.S. Constitution. … ALA stands behind Maryland libraries and library workers, the Maryland Library Association, Maryland State Library, and the Maryland Attorney General: the complaint by AAP should be dismissed.”

For more information, read the press release.

CCC Plans Feb. 9 Town Hall on Librarians and Researchers

CCC is hosting a town hall on Feb. 9, 2022—titled What’s Ahead for Librarians and Researchers?—that will feature “the latest research on the powerful forces bringing disruption to an age-old partnership—and [explore] why change may mean opportunity to widen access, accelerate discovery, and close the information gap.” Guests include Lorcan Dempsey, VP for research and membership and chief strategist for OCLC; Matthew Hayes, managing director of Lean Library; and Willa Liburd Tavernier, research impact and open scholarship librarian at Indiana University–Bloomington.

Register here. Submit questions in advance to events@copyright.com.

For more information, read the press release.

U.S. Copyright Office Introduces the Digitized Copyright Historical Record Books Collection

The U.S. Copyright Office “launched the first release of the digitized Copyright Historical Record Books Collection.” It states, “This collection is a preview of digitized versions of historical record books that the Office plans to incorporate into its Copyright Public Record System (CPRS), currently in public pilot. The collection will eventually include images of copyright applications and other records bound in books dating from 1870 to 1977. This first release includes 500 record books containing registration applications for books from 1969 to 1977, with a majority of the record books being the most recent volumes from 1975 to 1977.”

For more information, read the news item.

Springer Nature Signs Its First OA Agreements in Canada and Colombia

Springer Nature is signing two transformative agreements that will increase open research in the Americas: with the Federal Science Libraries Network (FSLN) in Canada and with Consorcio Colombia in Colombia. The FSLN agreement started in January 2022, and the Consorcio Colombia agreement starts in July 2022.

“Both agreements provide the ability to publish OA in over 2,000 of Springer Nature’s hybrid journals, including Springer, Palgrave and Adis portfolios,” the press release notes. “Transformative Agreements are just one way in which Springer Nature is opening up research. In December 2021, Springer Nature became the first publisher to immediately publish one million gold OA primary research and review articles. Nearly 2.5 million authors across all academic disciplines and from around the globe have therefore been supported in making their research OA, benefiting from the increased impact, usage and reach publishing OA provides.”

For more information, read the press release.

IMLS and FCC Join Forces to Expand Broadband Access to Tribal Libraries

IMLS is partnering with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “to expand broadband connectivity to Tribal libraries. The agencies will team up to raise awareness about the E-Rate program among Tribal libraries and organizations, which can use program funds to increase broadband access to serve their communities. To kick off this partnership, the agencies recently reached out to all 574 Tribal leaders to provide information about the E-Rate program and opportunities for Tribal libraries to participate.”

IMLS shares, “The partnership coincides with the adoption of an FCC order updating rules in the E-Rate program to clarify that Tribal libraries can access funding to provide affordable internet access in their communities. The Order updates the definition of “library” in the E-Rate program rules to make clear that it includes Tribal libraries, resolving a longstanding issue that limited their access to affordable broadband connectivity through the program. The Order also paves the way for Tribal libraries to apply for the E-Rate program application filing window that opened on January 12, 2022 and closes on March 22, 2022.”

For more information, read the press release.

EveryLibrary Gets the Word Out About Book Banning News

EveryLibrary shared some recent news about book banning, stating, “In the last few weeks we’ve seen dozens of new attacks on libraries. We’re working on quite a few of them. Luckily, we have found just as many new allies to help fight for libraries. From furries to suburban women, Americans are rallying to fight for libraries and their right to access information.” News stories include:
  • It appears that library board members in Montana faked a book challenge in order to run out the director and re-write the library policies to fit their radical political ideologies.
  • In the North Hunterdon-Voorhees [N.J.] school district, the NH-V Intellectual Freedom Fighters (NHVIFF), a dedicated group of parents, residents, and educators, came together to campaign against [a] ban and to support the school librarian.
  • [EveryLibrary is] excited to partner with Red Wine and Blue on their Book Ban Busters campaign. … They assembled a great map of book challenges from around the country [and] are also promoting opportunities for like-minded Americans to learn to fight against censorship in your community, donate banned books, and report bans in your area.
  • The Furry community has come together to fight for libraries!! … They helped ... raise over $70,000 for the library in Ridgeland, Mississippi where the Mayor was withholding over $100,000 in library funds because he didn't like some of the LGBTQ+ books on the shelves.

For more information, read the news item.

OverDrive Enhances Sora With Two New Content Types

OverDrive Education added Sora Extras, DOGOnews and Method Learning, to the Sora student reading app. The company states, “A new category of content in the Sora app that complements ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines, Sora Extras are new ways to engage students in a variety of subjects. DOGOnews offers thousands of concise, kid-friendly news stories on current events, science, sports and more. Method Learning provides comprehensive, self-paced lessons and resources that help students prepare for, and score higher on, the SAT and ACT. More Sora Extras will be added in the coming months.”

For more information, read the blog post.

Granta Books Makes a Digital Book Collection Available at Exact Editions

Exact Editions announced that Granta Books has launched a fully searchable digital book collection—of more than 40 titles—on its platform. Subscriptions are available for individuals and institutions. Exact Editions notes, “Both Granta Books and Granta magazine discover and publish the best in new literary fiction, memoir, reportage and poetry from around the world. The exciting selection of titles in the new Granta Books Collection gives global subscribers access to those books which may be of particular interest to scholars and students around the world and also acts as an accompaniment to the complete archive of Granta magazine.”

For more information, read the press release.

'Scribd Opens Free Access to Targeted Titles' by Porter Anderson

Porter Anderson writes the following for Publishing Perspectives:

Based in San Francisco, the international subscription service Scribd has on Friday (February 4) announced that it’s making banned books available to read without charge–and without a credit card or other commitment required.

The access is set for 30 days and has been launched with a message from Scribd’s co-founding CEO Trip Adler, who notes ‘an alarming uptick in books being banned in school and public libraries.

‘These bans are disproportionately impacting topics around diverse perspectives,’ Adler writes. ‘Disappointingly, the works of several Scribd Original authors—Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado, and Margaret Atwood—have been included in the recent bans.’

Adler … writes, ‘Our goal is to ensure everyone has the freedom to read literature, which includes books being banned.’

For more information, read the article.



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