Concerning the Adobe Digital Editions Data Log Issues

Some recent news has come to light surrounding Adobe Digital Editions and the way it collects information about eBook use. In an effort to stay on top of the situation, we wanted to provide some background to the news and how Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is responding.

What is happening

Adobe Digital Editions is a piece of software designed to handle Digital Rights Management, or DRM. It’s a security tool that protects things like eBooks from being copied and widely distributed. Publishers often require DRM in their materials as a safeguard against piracy. In the library context, this also enables library eBooks to act like their print counterparts – that is to say, books that are “returned” once they hit their expiration date. If you check out eBooks from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on your desktop or laptop computer, you were probably required to download the Adobe Digital Editions client.

Blogger Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader discovered that Adobe Digital editions is keeping an ongoing record of any items that have checked in with Adobe Digital Editions, as well as the items held on any device that syncs with Adobe Digital Editions. So if you have Adobe Digital Editions on your computer, and you connect an eReader or tablet to it, it will check in with that “mother ship” and ADE will log the eBooks on that device.

This data collection is limited to eBook data that goes through the Adobe Digital Editions on your desktop computer. However, if you connect a device to that computer, ADE will log those ebooks to its record. So if you connect an iPad, Nook, or other eReader to your computer, Adobe will look for eBooks on that device and track that information.

On one level, this is both overly invasive and troubling. But the biggest problem is that this data is then sent to Adobe in an unencrypted format – which raises some serious red flags from a security standpoint.

What isn’t happening

Adobe isn’t crawling through your hard drive. A series of independent tests demonstrated that Adobe is keeping an ongoing record of any items that have checked in with Adobe Digital Editions, and checked a number of variables to verify the extent of the data logging. While these data logs are certainly a serious issue, Adobe Digital Editions is not searching your computer for other types of private or personal information.

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What you can do

If you’re checking out eBooks through the OverDrive app, sending eBooks to your Kindle, or using OverDrive READ to view eBooks through your browser, this issue won’t affect you. Likewise for eAudiobooks, which don’t use Adobe Digital Editions at all.

If you are downloading eBooks through your desktop computer, a good temporary solution would be to use the OverDrive READ feature to read books through your browser. Adobe has promised a fix, and we will be looking out for any updates to Adobe Digital Editions 4.

The previous version of Adobe Digital Editions has been found not to collect data in this way. If you like, you can uninstall ADE 4.0 from your computer, and download ADE 3.0 from the Adobe website.

What we’re doing

We love our eCLP collection, and we know you’ve come to love it as well. Using new online services always raises some major concerns about the balance between privacy and convenience. As an institution that holds your privacy in extremely high regard while making things as convenient and easy to use as possible, we definitely have to weigh one issue in contrast with the other.

We are sending a letter to OverDrive (our primary eBook vendor) alerting them to our concerns. Given that we have a direct relationship with OverDrive, we think raising the issue to them will be the best way to make our voice heard. We are also discussing this matter with members of ReadersFirst, a national organization devoted to improving eBook access and services for library users. The American Library Association has also issued a statement.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation and make sure to keep you informed about any issues we encounter regarding our third-party vendors.

If you have concerns, we want to hear from you. Please contact Toby Greenwalt, Director of Digital Strategy and Technology Integration at greenwaltt@carnegielibrary.org.

 

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Our Ever-Shrinking World

This past month, my family had the wonderful privilege of hosting an exchange student in our house for two weeks. In that all-too-brief stay with us, it became very clear through our interactions with this German teenager at how small our world is getting. Whether it was his very excellent English, choice in cologne or his one site-seeing request of visiting a Wal-Mart, the overwhelming evidence was there that we are indeed living in a global society and thus a shrinking world. But as enjoyable as his visit was, I didn’t need it as vindication for me. As someone who works throughout the city of Pittsburgh, I see this on almost a daily basis.

Pittsburgh has been a magnet for visitors, whether long term or short, for centuries now, and thanks in part to a great mix of travellers who have landed on the shores of our three rivers, we now can boast to be one of the “most…(pick your favorite top-ten list Pittsburgh has made it on recently)…cities” in the world. And as usual, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is right there to help the recent traveler, and those who love them, meld into this ever-present global society.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers a variety of language classes and conversation salons throughout the city, including our newest program Let’s Speak English for those whose native language isn’t English and would like to learn through conversation. The conversation salons allow native English speakers to converse with experts of various foreign languages. Just click here to search our events page for language-related programming going on at a neighborhood branch near you.

In addition to these fantastic events happening, there’s also our Mango Languages online learning program. Mango Languages allows you to practice a language of your choice (there are dozens available) in the privacy of your own home, office or wherever you choose to access this resource remotely, not to mention that it’s available on the computers in the libraries throughout the city. And don’t forget about Little Pim, which is a language program specifically geared toward children. The whole family can get in on the action!

foreign language

“Language Laboratory” – A language laboratory at one of Pittsburgh’s public schools, date unknown. Courtesy of the Western PA Historical Society collection.

Whether you want to brush up on your English, German, French or any number of other languages, your local Library is a great place to start your own personal journey through our global society.

-Maria J. (who failed miserably at Latin in high school, but is getting her Pittsburghese dahn pretty well.)

 

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An Inspector and His Companion

It’s a bold move to claim that your book is Doctor Who meets Sherlock. If you’re going to call out two of the biggest names in nerdy-Anglophile culture, you’d better have the goods. Luckily, it seems that first-time author William Ritter does.

Abigail Rook is a girl looking for adventure. Before even arriving in the tiny New England town of New Fiddleham, she had run away from home to join an archaeological dig in the Ukraine, then skipped off to Germany before sailing across the Atlantic. And yes, it’s 1892.

Abigail quickly finds herself a job as an assistant to R.F. Jackaby – an investigator who takes on cases with a supernatural twist. Much like Sherlock Holmes, Jackaby is often lost in his own head (Abigail is hired for her knack of noticing the mundane yet important things about a crime scene). Aside from one young detective who recognizes that things are a little hinky, Jackaby is barely tolerated by police but has a backlog of grateful clients.

While Jackaby displays very clear Sherlock tendencies, Abigail is definitely filling the Doctor Who companion role. And without question, she is very much a Rose Tyler. She’s a bit sassy, quite clever and resourceful, and has that same willingness to jump right into things.

Probably an accurate representation of our characters…

This is a quick read with a fun paranormal mystery – perfect for this time of year. I can’t wait to see Abigail and Jackaby’s next adventure!

- Jess

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And the winner is …

“I do not share the pessimism of the age about the novel. They are one of our greatest spiritual, aesthetic and intellectual inventions. As a species it is story that distinguishes us, and one of the supreme expressions of story is the novel. Novels are not content. Nor are they are a mirror to life or an explanation of life or a guide to life. Novels are life, or they are nothing.” – Richard Flanagan, winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North

As I was saying, I’ve been a little – okay, fine, call me obsessed – with The Man Booker Prize for Fiction this year.

Finally, after what seemed like endless online speculation from bloggers like yours truly, Richard Flanagan was announced this week as the 2014 winner of the prestigious literary award for a book that took him 12 years to write,  The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

I admit, I haven’t read Flanagan’s novel yet – but it’s high on my list.

That has as much to do with the author’s personal story as it does the plot of the novel itself.  The Narrow Road to the Deep North draws inspiration from Flanagan’s father’s experience as a prisoner of war on the Burma-Thailand “Death Railway” during World War II.

Not my usual fare, this.  But one of the things I’ve tried to do as a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh staff member is to break out of my literary comfort zone from time to time. It’s good to try a new genre every once in  awhile in order to better talk books with our customers.  I mean, after all, it’s only a book; the worse that can happen is that I don’t like it and I return it unfinished for someone else to potentially enjoy.

I had never heard of Richard Flanagan before he made the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction shortlist; however, in his acceptance speech on Tuesday, Flanagan endeared himself to me and perhaps to many other aspiring authors who may feel as if our roads to literacy greatness are narrowing.

“Much has been made about the death of the novel and the end of literature as it’s seen to be assailed by technology, by the web, by the many and varied new forms of entertainment and culture. I don’t share that pessimism because I think it is one of the great inventions of the human spirit. So it strikes me not as a dying medium but as an ever more remarkable one.”

Here at the Library, we think of books and literature and novels as remarkable things, too.

Congratulations.

–Melissa F.

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Lost and Found

Lending libraries have an interesting characteristic. We own stuff. We let private individuals borrow this stuff, take it into their cars, homes, offices, hotel rooms, school lockers, and then expect them to give back this stuff. But due to the Law of Accumulation of Stuff, sometimes things don’t come back quite the way they left. Sometimes, there is more….

I’m the last person who will judge you for your choice in bookmarks. It would be generous to say that I’ve been creative in my choice of bookmarks, having used other books, mixing bowls, furniture, people, etc. My brothers insist that I once used a peeled banana, but I’m reasonably sure the peel was still there when I left it. I once found the program from a friend’s recital, which had apparently been sitting in the book since I borrowed it myself a year before.

It turns out I’m not the only one. Michael Popek, a used-book seller, has been collecting some of these things-found-in-books since he started helping out in his father’s bookstore at age seven. He has a website, Forgotten Bookmarks, where he posts pictures and stories of his finds, and has released two books with some of the best. Looking through the website and the book of the same name is a delightful mix of anthropology and voyeurism. Between some pages may be found love letters, vacation photos, and intriguingly specific invitations. Between others, cap gun ammunition, seven razor blades, “Dear John” letters, an emergency exit sign, and an advertisement for an automatic sealing burial vault.

Popek’s second book, Handwritten Recipes, is less about peeking into other people’s lives and more about peeking into their brains. The recipes are transcribed exactly as found, which leaves room for a lot of ambiguity and incompleteness, besides accounting for strange tastes. He has called upon several food-blogging friends to fill in the gaps and review recipes, though I wish he had done so for more than a handful of the recipes. A few of the recipes, including Barbecued Beef and Paul’s Pumpkin Bars, are getting added to my own collection. Others have ingredients that concern me, such as Noodle Pudding (Velveeta), Italian Cookies (11 eggs, 1 lb sugar, ½ lb lard, etc.) or the Italian Pie (1 lb butts, ground or cut up in small pieces).

Contrasting with the forgotten bookmarks, we have several stories involving messages deliberately left within books. In his memoir Running the Books, Avi Steinberg falls into a job as a prison librarian. One of his responsibilities is removing “kites” (handwritten notes) from books, in between batches of prisoners who are not meant to communicate. “I would walk around like a shell collector on a beach,” he writes of these clean-up periods, “gathering up legal documents, love letters, queries, manifestos, grievances, marginalia, scribbled receipts, remnants of illicit transactions, wrap dates, rap sheets, rap lyrics, business plans, country songs, handmade advertisements for ‘entertainment’ businesses, journal entries, betting lines, greeting cards, prayers, recipes, incantations, and lists. Many lists.”

For more lost and found voyeurism, here are a few titles worth perusing:

For fictional tales of the things between our pages, try:

I’ll leave you with a found bookmark of the library’s own, left tucked inside a rollicking adventure book in the children’s section.

bookmark

-Bonnie T.

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Surprise! This Book Just Transformed Into My Worst Fear

I love Halloween because it’s the one time of year wearing a costume is socially acceptable. It’s the time you can be someone or something you’re not. You can taste what it’s like to be a monster, or your favorite fictional character, or a concept.

zombinatorLots of people in Pittsburgh, pretty much everyone apparently, wants to “taste” what it’s like to be a zombie—there are zombie walks, massive humans vs. zombies games on college campuses, zombie literature, a zombie store, and new zombie movies all the time.

Before I go any further, let me say this: I don’t scare easily.

Spiders? I put them outside so they can eat annoying bugs. Snakes? I had a pet snake when I was a kid, and the only reason I don’t have one now is because my dogs would probably try to eat it. Bats? I squeal with delight when I see one because I think they are super adorable (and they eat half their body weight in insects per night!). Insects? As long as they aren’t trying to bite me, dive bomb me, or fly into my mouth or ear, I don’t bother with them. And I love the ones that help my garden, like bees and lady bugs.

I do have one mortal fear, though: Zombies.

That’s right. I think bats are the cutest things ever, snakes make great pets, and spiders are my friendly household helpers, and yet I’m Terrified—with a capital T—of zombies.

It’s the idea that a monster could scratch you ever-so-slightly and yet still infect you with a disease that turns you into a mindless husk of a body with cannibalistic leanings. It’s the slow and relentless onslaught. The overwhelming numbers. That once they start coming, you can fight, but humanity’s demise is inevitable.

Walking Dead Book OneOnce, I tried reading The Walking Dead, and got ten pages in before I slammed the book shut. “Nope. No way. Not going to happen,” I told the book.

Miniature WifeLately, I’ve been stumbling onto zombie stories everywhere. This past weekend, I was reading The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales, and BAM, surprise zombie story! I had to read it, because I have this compulsion about finishing books, and aside from the surprise zombies, I really enjoyed the delightful weirdness of the collection.

That night, I made my husband hold my hand after we turned out the lights, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the zombies and their gray teeth and slurping sounds.

bprdhellonearthoneLast month, I was reading B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, and BAM, zombies! I’ve encountered the traditional slow-moving raised-from-the-dead zombies in Hellboy before (and those don’t really scare me), but these were mindless mutated half-animal creatures that got turned into zombies from breathing a gas released from a gigantic monster. UBER CREEPY.

weliveinwaterEven Jess Walter’s seemingly normal collection about class and race issues, We Live in Water, contains a surprise zombie story. It’s not a typical zombie story—people are turned by taking a recreational drug that changes their brain chemistry—but it’s still a zombie story.

stitchedIf you look at the cover of Stitched by Garth Ennis, a writer I greatly enjoy, it looks like a war comic with some scary reaper dudes. NOPE. It’s about voodoo zombies who can’t be killed. I read this one anyway, but man did it freak me out.

All these zombie stories act kind of like zombies themselves. You think you’re safe and comfortable and then all of a sudden your best friend has become a flesh-eating monster, and you have to fight for your life. I think I’m safe and comfortable reading fun quirky short stories about miniaturized wives or class issues in a decaying city, and then all of a sudden I’m reading a story about zombies and I’m terrified.

I guess this is one of the risks of being a science fiction and fantasy reader in the zombie-obsessed 21st century. It makes a kind of sense—lots of people believe we’re all turning into zombies because of too much work, because we listen to the same talking heads and don’t think for ourselves, because there is always a new virus that does scary, scary things to the human body.

So I’m not going to stop reading these types of stories, even though they make me want to hide under the covers like a five-year-old afraid of the monster in the closet.

How about you? Do you love zombies? Hate them? What’s your favorite zombie story?

-Kelly

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That Dreaded Time of Year…

When someone tells me “you’re from Pittsburgh, you should be used to the winter by now” I cringe.  I hate cold weather.  I hate snow.  I hate short days, little sunshine, trees with no leaves, tough morning commutes, long sleeves, coats, and being cooped up.  I always have.  I always will, there’s no getting used to it.  I’ve never been a fan of fall either, it just means things are dying and the winter is coming.  Although self-diagnosed, I’d venture to say that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This year I’m going to try to embrace the season, or at least the season’s cooking, indoor activities, and maybe even some outdoor activities too.

Not that it’s all I like about summer, but summer food certainly has helped sway my preference towards that season.  Fresh tomatoes, bbq, watermelon, salads, plums, peaches, apricots, basil, cilantro, and ice cream all have very special places in my heart.  Fall and winter flavors, although I certainly enjoy them, to me, don’t equal summer. I’m not one of those people who can’t wait for pumpkin spice to come back.  This year, though, I’m going to give it a go and embrace the fall and winters, and the flavors they bring.  I’ve already made pumpkin pancakes, although this hardly counts as using seasonal ingredients because the pumpkin I used came from a can.  This is just the beginning though.

My garden does have fall veggies that I planted in August (many of the seeds I got from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Main’s First Floor seed bank).  I didn’t plant pumpkin or squash, but I have beans, leeks, green onions, lettuce, celery, and several herbs.  I also have a rosemary plant that I brought inside for the winter, as rosemary has the same climate preferences as me.  I’ll also need to buy many of the fall flavors and ingredients from the grocery store (or farm, as we’ll be visiting local farms this fall, more on that later).   But where do I start with putting fall and winter ingredients together in a fall and winter kind of way?  Where do I start with anything I want to do, with books from the library of course!

My selections to start with:

Autumn nights, winter mornings : a collection of cold weather comfort foods - Barbara Scott-Goodman

Winter food : seasonal recipes for the colder months   Jill Norman

The Winter Harvest Cookbook by Lane Morgan

Of course part of embracing the fall and winter will be enjoying the traditional celebration foods of those months, and the celebrations themselves.  Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cookies, and all of the casseroles that various family members prepare this time of year are excellent, not to mention the celebrations that they’re served at.  That’s another element of embracing the season, to focus on all of the festivities and traditions that happen this time of year.  I love any excuse to spend time with my family, which luckily for me live nearby.  Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, and New Years are all holidays that we celebrate together.  My oldest daughter’s birthday is in November too.  There are plenty of reasons to be around friends and family.  But what about going to the dreaded outdoors in the cold, the rain, the snow, the wind?

Again, I’m going to try to be at one with even that aspect of these seasons.  Luckily, here in Pittsburgh there are lots of great farms with fall festivals.  There are 2 that are within a 15 minute drive of our house.  We’ll be doing the pumpkin patch, hayrides, and buying apples and apple cider (fresh apples are an excellent part of the fall). Here is a list of local fall festivals to enjoy!

Now, being outdoors in the fall is one thing, but in the winter is quite another.  But, then again, I do have 2 daughters who will be happy to get out and play in the snow.  My goal is to take them out to play in the snow a bit more this year than last year.  I’m going to be realistic, it will be cold and uncomfortable, but seeing their faces as they make snowmen or throw snowballs should make up for the temperature.  Plus we’ll get to enjoy hot soup, tea, chocolate, and coffee when we come inside.  Well, okay, the coffee is for me, not the kids, but you get the idea.  We’ll be building some fun family traditions and memories.

While I read all year round, winter is a great time to settle in with your preferred warm beverage and enjoy a good book.  I already have one holiday favorite, I’d love to learn about some new ones,seeing that I’m trying to change my attitude about this time of year.  Please share some of your favorite seasonal or holiday books, and I’ll be sure to check them out!

I’m also choosing seasonal and holiday books for my children, in an effort to help them better enjoy the festive season.  Making seasonal and holiday reading a part of their holiday tradition will certainly make this time of year more special for them!  Please visit your local Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location where the children’s staff will be more than happy to recommend some great seasonal, age appropriate books for your kids!

You know what, with all this stuff, the fall and winter actually seem like something to look forward to.  Spending time with loved ones, different flavors and ingredients, and some great activities and traditions!  I don’t know, it might actually be downright tolerable.  Cheers!

-Scott M.

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