Book covers – a history

I recently found the Cover Archive by Alexander S. Budnitz.

I am always fascinated by the covers chosen for books and how why they change with new reprints and editions. The styles over the years also changed with the societal changes. There are some lovely early covers and some of the 1960’s and 70’s covers now appear to be just plain awful/garish to me.

This is a great site that displays the changing styles in book covers from the early 1920’s up to the present day, and it shows not only how they developed but also how many of those from a particular period were so similar in style.

This archive is about graphic design. I’ve attempted to label each cover with a date and, where possible, a designer (or design firm). The designs are the publisher’s property, and are here as an educational tool and as things to be enjoyed.

There were many covers were not familiar to me, even into later ones but that is to be expected because these were covers for the US editions and until recently we had little access to them as our editions were from the “Commonwealth” publishers. It is well worth having a look at the site that is constantly being updated.

Use the drop-down navigation above to browse covers by year, by select designers, and by other more ‘synthetic’ categories. Only the ‘Time Flies’ chronological section is fully updated. There are well over 1,000 covers in the archive. I keep adding to the collection, but can only ever represent a fraction of what’s out there.

Using the drop down list, the covers from 1900-1949:

Useful sites (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Navify – Searching Wikipedia, Flickr and YouTube

My colleague Tania found this tool via the Free technology for teachers blog. I had seen Nibipedia, but Navify was a new tool for me to look at. It is a mash-up of Wikipedia, Flickr, and YouTube.

We all know that many of our students use Wikipedia,which may be developing into the world’s most extensive encyclopedias, as people continue to build on the information it contains. It does sometimes lack visual content, ie. pictures and more often videos, to assist with the written explanations. This can, at times, place a limit on its informative value. 

Navify seeks to redress this problem. Like Nibipedia, it attempts to match videos and images to Wikipedia articles.



To use Navify:

Go to the Navify site and do a standard Wikipedia search (no log in required) by simply entering your search term, just as you would in any search. The results will be returned in a tabbed form displaying:

  • Wikipedia article
  • related images and
  • related videos.

The images tab offers photos added by Wikipedia (or Navify users) and those automatically discovered on Flickr. It is very new at the moment but, as more users come on board, I can see this becoming a great source for relevant and useful images.


Video tab

Video tab

The videos tab works exactly the same way except that it finds related videos from YouTube.

Commenting on articles is also allowed. Navify is also supporting these comments using Disqus, so you will be able to read what people are saying about the Navify article pages.

The service is also planning on offering a music player so that users can listen to full related songs and audio content. So far I have found with my searching that Navify enhances the Wikipediaoption. It is still developing but has potential to become much greater. There seems to be no end to what tools people are thinking up to try and create better searching options. They won’t all survive and it will be the users who decide, in many cases.  It is a very interesting time for those of us interested in information searching.

Wordnik – more than a dictionary

Another Web 2.0 tool for those who are fascinated with words. This is a fascinating site as well and, be warned, you can become quite caught up in and forget the time. Wordnik

Wordnik offers an alternative to the more usual online dictionaries and thesaurus resources available. The site, is very new and still in beta, is built from existing sources and added to by contributors. So far it contains more than 1.7 million words. 


When a user searches a word using Wordnik it displays word definitions, pronunciations, synonyms, antonyms as well as their etymology. From the FAQ page, it states “Wordnik is based on the principle that people learn words best by seeing them in context.” (Not new to teachers that one!) The site goes about this in a number of ways. It pulls examples from novels and Twitter,as well as definitions from several dictionaries. Users can contribute example sentences, audio pronunciations and images from Flickr. This seems a simple thing, and, for instsnce, how better to explain a colour? The “related words” feature, which shows not only synonyms and antonyms, but other words that are used in a similar context, words that often show up in the same kinds of sentences.

This all means that it offers opportunities for users to gain a very good idea about a word, with different ways to approach information about how and when a word is used. I think that ESL (non-English speaking students) would find this a more useful tool than the traditional dictionaries.

Other interesting features include the word statistics that show you how Wordnik statisticsoften a word had been used throughout history and the opportunity to observe almost live reflections in blog posts and tweets.  Words are also presented in context of literary texts from various times, which allow you to see changes in style and use.

A post on the blog Inspirited Enterpriseoffers some information behind the development of Wordnik.

Wordnik is collaborative and the policy about words is an inclusive one and uses a broad definition about what is considered to be a “real word.”

If you’d like to contribute, you can sign up! Otherwise, it is worth a look and it will be interesting to see how it develops.

I am going to have more of a play to check out to see what ways it may be useful for the students at school.

Using Twitter in class

A lot of people have been discussing the value of social media in a educational setting. Twitter is something that has become more and more popular for brief messages and there are beginning to be all sorts of ideas on how it could be used to make classroom learning/thinking a more interesting experience for students.

A few examples that I have seen recently are not necessarily totally new but have been adapted for Twitter.

A post called If Shakespeare Had Twittered, published on the Ad Lab site and mentioned by Joanne Jacobs on her site.

Here’s what the first nine lines of the “To be or not to be” passage would’ve looked like had Shakespeare tried to cramm them into the character allowance of Twitter.

  1. “2 be, or nt 2 be: tht’s the q:
  2. Whether ’tis nblr in the mnd 2 sffr
  3. The slngs & rrws of trgs frtn,
  4. Or 2 tk rms gnst a sea of trbls,
  5. by ppsng end thm? 2 die: 2 zzz;
  6. No mr &  by a zzz 2 say we end
  7. The hrt-ache & the thsnd ntrl shcks
  8. That flsh is hr 2, ’tis a cnsmmtn
  9. Devoutly 2 be wsh’d. 2 die, 2 zzz;”

Another post, this time by Susan Berkson, in her post To Tweet or not to Tweet , (Blog: Jump the Snark : Old media writer learns new media ). She imagines a what some tweeting between the Bard and contemporaries might look like.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, that is the question. Would hehave twittered? Would #WillonAvon have sent off sparks all day? What would this have done to his work?
@WillonAvon What light through yonder window breaks?
@WillonAvon Working on new play: Romeo and help! need name
@KitMarlowe Ethel
@DarkLady Pearl
@EssexEarl Elizabeth
@TouchstonePhoebe lol!
@Pyramus Thisbe
@Antonio Maria
Liking Ethel. Also Nancy, Margaret, Isabella, Porsche, see my list at
Ale with #KitMarlowe, #DarkLady, #EssexEarl
@WillonAvon Twitter. Rhymes with litter, glitter, flitter, titter, bitter. Ah, well, off to sleep perchance to… drool

Both these ideas could be adapted, for classroom use, very easily, they could be extension work for students that finish early or offered as a way of responding to or showing their understanding of some literature. To successfully complete any such exercises, the students would have to understand the play well, in the first example and have a good knowledge of the characters in the play and Shakespeare’s contemporaries for the second. I have posted before about “creating” a facebook site about a famous person, the idea came from a post by Dean Baseler. This could be taken further by then by using the Twitter-like language.

If you don’t know much about twitter the  following is a slideshare presentation by minxuan. It is a great starting point

This is a short introduction on the value of twitter, how to use it effectively, and how I think it will change the world. Presented to the NUS Entrepreneurs Association in Silicon Valley.