The library responsive design (RWD) websites presented here are the library sites from my the previous article listing higher education and library RWD sites. The screenshots (from iPhone/iPod-Touch & iPad) give an idea of how website content changes with a small screen size. You can see the same thing on a larger screen by going to the site and changing the window size to see how the page responds.

Click the library name to go the library site; click the screenshot to see it in larger size.

Grand Valley State Univ (Michigan)

Canton Public Library (Michigan)

Regent College (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Hendrix College (Arkansas)

George Mason Univ Law College (Virginia)

Univ Iowa

The two library sites below are strongly integrated with their institutional websites, and the first screen on the iPhone is completely taken up by institutional information. So for the iPhone screenshot, I’ve added the second screen, that has library information.

Dakota State Univ (South Dakota)

Durham Univ (UK)

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

Before the iPad came out in 2010, the working assumption was that web pages needed to accomodate only two screen sizes — Desktop/Laptop and iPhone/smartphone sized. Accordingly, many sites, including libraries, built separate mobile pages, sometimes called “mdot” pages because they often have the same URL as the desktop page preceded by “m.”

Mobile First

During this time, designer Luke Wroblewski (@lukew) proposed a somewhat different approach, that he called Mobile First. This is based on the idea that the best way to make web pages is to design them first for their appearance on mobile devices, and then to take into account the large-screen appearance secondarily. This approach has the great advantage that it eliminates having to maintain separate pages for small and large screens.

Enter the iPad … and Responsive Design

While there was a variety of tablet-like devices with screen sizes between smartphone and desktop before the iPad launched, they were never very popular. With the overwhelming success of the iPad, though, it quickly became clear that tablets of various sizes were here to stay (shown nicely in designer Brad Frost’s graphic below).

Before the iPad, the idea of having separate mdot-smartphone and desktop web pages was considered difficult but possible. When it became clear, though, that tablets of many sizes would proliferate, maintaining separate pages for every size was obviously impractical.

What was needed, thoughtful developers realized, is a way to code pages so that they look good on any size screen. So, soon after the iPad launched in April, 2010, Ethan Marcotte (@beep) — building on Wroblewski’s Mobile First idea — launched what he named Responsive Web Design (shortened to Responsive Design or RWD). This uses sophisticated coding (CSS media queries and fluid grids) to build pages that “flow” to look good on any size screen.

The RWD idea spread quickly with developers, who implemented it on their own sites and on smaller dotcom sites. In 2011, high profile sites began to launch RWD versions, most notably The Boston Globe and

On a desktop/laptop screen, a nice thing about looking at RWD sites is that it’s easy to see how they look on smaller screens — Just narrow the browser window, and the RWD site changes to the appearance it has on smaller screens – Try it out on a sample of RWD sites that have appeared in the last year: BBC, MinnPost, Center for Investigative Reporting, ProPublica, Univ Notre Dame, Arizona State U Online, A-W architecture, Jason Weaver (a small, exemplary developer site).

Libraries have been slow to adopt RWD so far. Our library system at Univ of Iowa has started with it (which is how I got interested) – We have it on the main University Libraries site and on the Hardin Library site. The only other RWD library I’ve found is Grand Valley State Univ (Michigan), which has implemented it on a sub-section of the library site.

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

The essence of Flipboard is well-captured in the headline of the press-release when it was launched in July 2010:

Inspired by the beauty of print and designed for iPad, Flipboard transforms the social media experience

With many rave reviews when it came out, Flipboard was chosen by Apple as the best iPad app of 2010, and selected by Time magazine as one of the top 50 inventions of 2010 (along with the iPad). Much of the commentary on Flipboard has focused on its transformative effect on Twitter, and that’s what I’ll focus on in this article.

Flipboard: “Twitter Cleaner-Upper”

As @alex says in an early review, Flipboard takes the raw, text-based Twitter stream, filters out the chatty, “what I had for breakfast” tweets, and presents the user with an elegant, graphic screen of news and articles that are linked in tweets. On the same theme, Mark Wilson calls Flipboard the Twitter cleaner-upper, because it “transforms any confusing stream of Twitter … posts into a dynamically generated digital newspaper.”

The shrunken screen shot at left has my tweets as they appear in Twitter on top, and the corresponding tweets in Flipboard below (click image for large view). The headlines and the text in the Flipboard entries are from the articles themselves — When one of these is clicked, the whole article appears. The tweet also appears at the bottom of the screen, from where it can be retweeted or replied to.

I should mention that most of my tweets contain links, as do all the ones in the screenshot, so this doesn’t show Flipboard’s filtering out of non-linking tweets, which, as the reviewers above emphasize, is one of its best features.

Before Flipboard, Twitter Lists never really took off — With Twitter, exploring a new List can be fairly imposing, especially because of the raw, unfiltered chatty tweets of many unknown Twitter users. In Flipboard, though, Twitter Lists come into their own — By turning the raw Twitter feed into a graphic, filtered screen of newsworthy articles, Flipboard makes it much faster to explore a new List to see if it’s worth reading.

The Elegance of the Experience: “A Ballet-Like Flow”

The screenshot and brief description above give only a rough idea of how transforming Flipboard is. It’s hard to convey in words what makes it so appealing — I suspect it’s that it does such a good job of capturing the touchy-feely, animated potential of the iPad. Without a doubt, this makes it fun to use, but it also makes it a much faster and more efficient way to browse through tweets than can be done in Twitter and other non-graphic clients.

One of the specific parts of Flipboard that shines is the smooth, fluid “sliding panel” transition that pulls the reader from the initial, abbreviated view of an article into the full view. The sliding panels metaphor is more fully implemented in the Twitter iPad app, but I like the fluid sliding effect in Flipboard better.

PC Magazine reviewer Jill Duffy’s poetic words are the best description I’ve found of the Flipboard feel:

A Ballet-Like Flow, Flipping, Scanning, Touching … Graceful with Rhythm

Is this enough to convey the idea? — Get your hands on an iPad, and let your fingers experience Flipboard!

Flipboard & Twitter – “This is the Next Step”

Another quote from @alex about the Flipboard-Twitter effect:

I truly believe that anyone who finds … Twitter to be dull, or unusable, will find [it] to be 100% more engaging on Flipboard. This is the next step.

Steve Jobs felt similarly — As reported by Robert Scoble, he wasn’t a big fan of Twitter, but he loved Flipboard.

I shy away from the term “killer app,” but it’s hard to avoid with Flipboard — I’ve had an iPad for three months. I thought when I got it that I’d spend much time exploring all the great apps I’ve long been reading about. But instead, I’ve spent most of my iPad time on (free!) Flipboard – By itself, it justifies the price of the iPad — Is that a killer app?

About the title of this article — As I was writing, and thinking about a title, I tweeted this phrase I came across in another article: “FlipBoard & iPad were a Match Made in Heaven.” I was flattered when Flipboard CEO and Co-inventor Mike McCue (@mmccue) favorited the tweet — Aha! — There was my title!

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter@ericrumseytemp


As I wrote last week, most current eBooks are linear books — Generally fiction, with some narrative non-fiction. As I was reading about that, I came across the BioBooks project, well-described in the title of the article on it that’s excerpted below: “Reinventing the College Textbook: A digital textbook project that uses a non-linear approach to learning.”

The BioBooks project is being done at Wake Forest University, by physicist Jed Macosko and biologist Dan Johnson. Macosko is interviewed by Campus Technology writer Bridget McCrea (boldface added):

Macosko: We tested out the idea of using an iPad as a textbook and then went further by making the information non-linear. Instead of going from chapter to chapter, students get to choose their own “adventure.” That’s how the BioBook was born.

McCrea: What’s the significance of non-linear books?

Macosko: Dan has spent a lot of time studying learning theory and is a neurologist himself. He understands the way the brain works. It has been shown that humans learn best when they can put facts into the order that makes the best sense to them. (more)

I’ve written before about other types of books that don’t fit into the current linear model of eBooks — Reference books and childrens’ books, as discussed by Dominique Raccah; and cookbooks, travel guides, and encyclopedias, discussed by Jakob Nielsen and Paul Biba. To that list, then, textbooks are another addition, and one whose lucrative market is likely to bring much BioBooks-like experimentation soon. As with BioBooks, much of this future development will certainly be on iPads or other tablets.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

Yesterday’s Reuters headline below, with projected tablet sales through 2015, makes a good compliment to a graphic in an article I wrote last year, which also targets 2015 — Saying that’s about when mobile devices (including tablets) will overtake desktops. So I’m mostly just juxtaposing these two graphics below, followed by mention of a library connection. First, the Reuters headline:

… And the graphic from my earlier article on libraries and mobile:

The Library Connection

From my Twitter watching, there seems to be relatively little discussion of the iPad in library circles, compared to other fields. With the exploding use of them, we in libraries need to pick up the ball!

Text from Reuters article:

Tablet market seen surging to $49 billion by 2015 – The global tablet computer market, born last year with Apple’s iPad, will grow to a $49-billion business by 2015, research firm Strategy Analytics said.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

When I wrote last Fall about iPad interest in different areas, libraries were far behind, and they still are, as shown in the chart at left. The blue columns are from Sept and red columns are from now, March 2011. The red numbers above the red columns are for March; for Sept numbers see the previous article.

The notable jump for “medical” in the chart since Sept is not surprising to anyone who has been following news and commentary — The iPad is proving to be very popular for doctors, hospitals and medical education.

The decline for “magazines” and “newspapers” is also not surprising — The highly-anticipated iPad boost for those media has not happened, and interest has sagged.

Whither libraries? — As I said in the Sept article, it continues to be surprising that libraries have not caught the iPad interest, since books and eBooks are so popular. With the great iPad interest in medicine, maybe medical libraries are just the ones to lead the pack in generating iPad interest in the library world.

The new data (red columns) is the average of counts done in Twitter searches on Feb 25 and March 31. The launch of the iPad 2 on March 2 had a notable effect on the these counts — The number of tweets was significantly higher on March 31 for most areas, except “libraries” and “newspapers,” for which it actually declined.

For more on methods used in this informal study, see the previous article.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

In January I wrote articles about the wonderful way Amazon’s Kindle app works on non-Kindle devices to allow cross-platform reading of Kindle eBooks. Using the Kindle apps on other devices (iPad and iPhone have been especially popular) has advantages over using the Kindle device, such as easy highlighting and note-taking. It was ironic. then, that it was just a week after I wrote that news came out that Apple would be putting restrictions on the use of the Kindle app on the the iPad and iPhone. While it’s not clear how much this will restrict use of the app on Apple devices, it seems likely to diminish their use.

With a relatively small number of titles available on the iBookStore, Apple is not in the business of providing content, unlike Amazon, with its KindleStore, and Google, with the Google eBookStore. So, with so few books of  its own, it’s surprising that Apple is putting restrictions on Kindle app users, instead of encouraging them — Hey, Apple, it seems like Amazon is helping you out!

Kindle apps on the iPad have been immensely popular, as described in my previous article, and the reaction to the new Apple policy has been strongly negative. A tweet by @fienen on Feb 15 highlights this (boldface added):

The content wars continue. Apple may have played the wrong card here. Big time. Official: Apple locks down the Kindle app

On the same day as this tweet, an article in CNNMoney reported recent remarks by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in which he called Amazon’s Kindle e-reader app the best business decision of the past decade, which made Amazon “‘the poster child’ of the cloud computing movement” — I don’t know about that, but I’d say the Kindle app certainly showed Amazon’s astuteness about the eBook cloud environment.

I think the future of eBooks is going to belong to the one who can bring together the devices & computers with the best collection of books. Right now, Apple has the devices and Amazon has the most books. So get with it, Apple — Amazon has opened up it’s books to play with your devices, so how about reciprocating?

What will Google do?

Looming over the spat between Apple and Amazon, of course, is … Google. As I said in concluding my previous article about the Kindle app ecosystem, “imagine the possibilities if Google puts their attention to doing something like this for their collection of public domain eBooks” — Bringing together the devices (Android tablets) and the books (Google eBookstore) in Google’s one big house.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

I wrote in my last article about using Kindle apps to capture highlighted text on a web page so it can be pasted to other applications. This seems like a major advance in eBook reading to me. Surprisingly, I’ve found few other people who have given this the importance that I do, with one notable exception — After discovering that I could use the Kindle app to capture text, as I described in the previous article, I finally did discover an article that I’m excerpting here by education writer Will Richardson, in which he describes having the same Aha! experience with the Kindle annotation capture that I did.

The only comment I have about Richardson’s narrative is that he writes of his experience with the Kindle app on an iPad, and doesn’t mention being able to do the same thing on the Kindle PC and Mac apps. I don’t have an iPad, and I imagine he didn’t try using the PC and Mac apps, as I’ve done, but from what he describes, it certainly sounds like the Kindle app works equally well on all of them. Here are Richardson’s words (boldface added):

Last year, I put the Kindle app on my iPhone and downloaded a couple of books to read. … But non-fiction wasn’t so great. If you look at most of the non-fiction books in my library, you’ll see they’re totally marked up, underlined, annotated and messy … On the Kindle, I could highlight, and take a note, but it just wasn’t as useful. The notes were hard to find, and the highlights just weren’t feeling as sticky. I wasn’t impressed; in fact, it was frustrating.

Last week, when I downloaded my first book to my shiny new iPad, things improved. The larger screen made a big difference, creating highlights and typing in reflective notes was a breeze, but I was still feeling the same frustration with the limitations; …  I kept searching for a way to copy and paste sections of the book out into Evernote … My searches didn’t come up with anything, and I finally turned to Twitter and asked the question there. Ted Bongiovanni (@teddyb109) came to the rescue:

@willrich45 – re: iPad Kindle cut and paste, sort of. You can highlight, and then grab them from #iPad #kindle

Turns out my iPad Kindle app syncs up all of my highlights and notes to my Amazon account. Who knew? When I finally got to the page Ted pointed me to in my own account, the page that listed every highlight and every note that I had taken on my Kindle version of John Seely Brown’s new book Pull, I could only think two words:

Game. Changer.

All of a sudden, by reading the book electronically as opposed to in print, I now have:

  • All of the most relevant, thought-provoking passages from the book listed on one web page, as in my own condensed version of just the best pieces
  • All of my notes and reflections attached to those individual notes
  • The ability to copy and paste all of those notes and highlights into Evernote which makes them searchable, editable, organizable, connectable and remixable
  • The ability to access my book notes and highlights from anywhere I have an Internet connection.

Game. Changer.

I keep thinking, what if I had every note and highlight that I had ever taken in a paper book available to search through, to connect with other similar ideas from other books, to synthesize electronically? … Others might not find this earth shattering, but this is a pretty heady shift for me right now, one that is definitely disrupting my worldview.

As I mention in the previous article, Amazon doesn’t quite have the process perfected, but when they do, I think this will, indeed, be a Game Changer for scholarly study … And imagine the possibilities if Google puts their attention to doing something like this for their collection of public domain eBooks …

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

The Internet Archive’s BookReader got a lot attention at the Books in Browsers conference at IA headquarters in San Francisco last week. IA engineer Mike Ang gave a  technical talk to conference attendees on using BookReader with a touch interface (iPad, Android). He also did a demo as part of Brewster Kahle’s “Books in Browsers” Keynote which was open to the general public, and that’s mostly what I’ll discuss in this article.

The IA blog article on Kahle’s Keynote has a video that includes Ang’s BookReader demo, with some screenshots from it. But the transcribed text in the article doesn’t include the demo, so I’ll give a little summary here — Ang’s 11-minute demo (16:26-27:40 on the video) includes enhanced search capabilities, audio generation from text, use on an iPad, and the thumbnail view (shown in the picture at left), which I discussed in an earlier article.

Ang said in the demo, and also in the conference session, that his team has the new version of BookReader working well in all browsers except Internet Explorer, and that that’s the main hold-up in releasing the new version. He’s hoping it will be out in the next few weeks.

In the conference session, Ang said that it’s especially difficult to get BookReader to work on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets because “multitouch events” are programmed differently on each different device. I particularly took note of this because I’ve used the current version of BookReader on an iPad, and although it works quite nicely in general, I do notice that it’s fairly slow in pinch zooming. This is also noticeable in Ang’s demo on the video. I hope this problem can be solved — I think BookReader, if it can be made to work smoothly, has great potential on iPad-like tablets — A combination that no doubt seems natural to the people at Internet Archive since, as Ang observed in his demo, the iPad happens to be “the size of a small book.”

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp

Twitter is notorious for having a short attention span – Trending topics tend to last for just a few days — The iPad has been a remarkable exception to this — Since it was introduced in April, its popularity on Twitter just seems to continue on and on. I experience this clearly myself because my tweets on the iPad are invariably the most popular ones.

With so much being written on the iPad, I often search in Twitter by combining “iPad” with another word — libraries, librarians, schools, learning, healthcare, medical etc. I’ve been surprised that combining iPad with library-related words consistently retrieves very little. So I did a little survey, counting the number of tweets retrieved in Twitter searches for some of these words, as shown in the graph at left (details on method below).

I don’t want to read too much into this quick-and-dirty little survey — Maybe it’s just a matter of time before the iPad surge filters down to libraries. But I still have to wonder … The apparent lack of interest in the iPad in the library world is especially surprising in view of the search figures in the chart for books, magazines, newspapers, and ebooks — the content of libraries.

As I was writing this post, I happened upon Brian Kenney’s article encouraging libraries to join the party and get into the “eBook game” like their patrons are quickly doing. The advice about libraries and eBooks in his catchy title fits the iPad also: You have to be in it to win it! – With the iPad having quickly established itself as the most popular device for reading digital books and magazines, and with its booming sales predicted to hit 28 million in 2011, isn’t it time for librarians to join the iPad party?

Methods — The numbers in the chart are the average of two searches done on Thurs, Aug 19 and Fri, Sept 3, each of the searches going back four days. I counted the number of pages for each search and multiplied by 10, assuming 10 tweets per page. For library related words, how about “library”? — I didn’t include it because of the varying contexts of the word — in particular iTunes library and iPod library — which are unrelated to libraries that are run by librarians. I did do a close examination of the 172 hits for library (on Sept 8th) and found that about 22 seemed to have some connection to the desired context, which would have raised the numbers in the chart a bit, but not enough to change the overall impression that the iPad is not mentioned much in connection with libraries. So I’ve chosen to stick with simple unambiguous words, especially so that the test can be easily repeated over time.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumseytemp AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumseytemp