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Field guides in the future (1 Viewer)

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
I start to appreciate more photos as an addition to drawings. If illustrations are imperfect. photos capture better the jizz of a bird. Useful for tropical species where there are multiple similar brown insect-eaters or greenish weaver-likes which are unfamiliar to you.

I also made a progress from paper guidebooks to electronic ones. One hot sweaty afternoon in New Guinea I decided I hate carrying the book. I sat down, waiting for some non-existent kingfisher, and took pictures of every plate with my mobile. It took maybe 30 min, worked surprisingly well and we never carried the book in the field ever since. Then at the airport, I did the same with The Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago. Worked well, and the book stayed safe in the hotel room. In future we plan not to take paper books even as an insurance, because we have multiple mobile phones between us.

Doesn't bother you how cumbersome electronic devices are compared to a book? I will always find the right page faster in a book if I am familiar with it and I can easily see a lot of pages basically at once or quickly flip and an A5 paper has an order of magnitude more resolution than any display ...
 

DMW

Well-known member
Doesn't bother you how cumbersome electronic devices are compared to a book? I will always find the right page faster in a book if I am familiar with it and I can easily see a lot of pages basically at once or quickly flip and an A5 paper has an order of magnitude more resolution than any display ...

I prefer paper books myself, but I'm not sure I can completely agree with this. I once did a trip to Borneo, Wallacea and the Philippines, which required three separate large and heavy field guides. I was literally lugging about 5kgs of bulky books around SE Asia. One of these was the fortunately now retired Bishop Wallacea guide, with possibly the worst layout of any book ever published!

I would have gladly scanned these onto a tablet and phone as a backup, and left the books at home.

I don't think it would take much time to learn how to leaf through a digital field guide if it had a well designed indexing system, and to be honest, the number of major taxonomic changes at family level in the last couple of decades have really made it difficult to quickly find birds in field guides. Gone are the days when I knew exactly where everything was.

As for resolution, this seems an odd statement, since with a tablet or phone, I can zoom in on high resolution photos in a way that is obviously impossible with paper.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
I prefer paper books myself, but I'm not sure I can completely agree with this. I once did a trip to Borneo, Wallacea and the Philippines, which required three separate large and heavy field guides. I was literally lugging about 5kgs of bulky books around SE Asia. One of these was the fortunately now retired Bishop Wallacea guide, with possibly the worst layout of any book ever published!

I would have gladly scanned these onto a tablet and phone as a backup, and left the books at home.

I don't think it would take much time to learn how to leaf through a digital field guide if it had a well designed indexing system, and to be honest, the number of major taxonomic changes at family level in the last couple of decades have really made it difficult to quickly find birds in field guides. Gone are the days when I knew exactly where everything was.

As for resolution, this seems an odd statement, since with a tablet or phone, I can zoom in on high resolution photos in a way that is obviously impossible with paper.

It's not that you can zoom, it's that you have to. The whole point of paper is that it gives you everything at once. I tried to "digitalize" my operations in various pursuits and I often get pushed back to paper. I no longer carry travel guides, because that's a relatively slow medium anyway (you read it when you have time mostly) and I have mostly got ridden of paper maps, because GPS lets me get to the right part of the map fast, but even that is clearly inferior for larger-scale planning and if I will ever come back to off-the-trail trekking, I will probably go back to paper maps - again simply because of the shear amount of area it shows me at once, giving me much more context than a smartphone ever could.
 

DMW

Well-known member
It's not that you can zoom, it's that you have to. The whole point of paper is that it gives you everything at once. I tried to "digitalize" my operations in various pursuits and I often get pushed back to paper. I no longer carry travel guides, because that's a relatively slow medium anyway (you read it when you have time mostly) and I have mostly got ridden of paper maps, because GPS lets me get to the right part of the map fast, but even that is clearly inferior for larger-scale planning and if I will ever come back to off-the-trail trekking, I will probably go back to paper maps - again simply because of the shear amount of area it shows me at once, giving me much more context than a smartphone ever could.

I see what you mean. I agree that a phone is definitely not optimal, but a 10 inch tablet will give about the same page size as most field guides.

I agree with you about the usefulness of large paper maps, but mainly at the planning stage. For use when travelling, apps such as Navigator or MapsMe are incredible.
 

jurek

Well-known member
Not much good if you spend a week in a place with no electricity though.

Very few places nowadays truly have no electricity. We went to NG with a set of portable power banks, but at the end only spend one night without electricity.

Doesn't bother you how cumbersome electronic devices are compared to a book? I will always find the right page faster in a book if I am familiar with it and I can easily see a lot of pages basically at once or quickly flip and an A5 paper has an order of magnitude more resolution than any display ...

Finding the right plate was actually faster on a mobile phone. You can go to the gallery view (I put photos into a separate gallery) and swipe across double pages to quickly find the right one.

The biggest practical problem was taking care during photographing pages, that you do not produce one that is not sharp. This would break the sequence of pages (I am sure this could be helped, but I tried to make it fast and easy).

I agree that the overall experience is not as nice as a book, but if I have to carry 1 kg less in 35oC and high humidity, I prefer the mobile phone. Books I will leave at home to lounge when sipping coffee.

Already before the Indonesian trip, I took photos of relevant pages of HMW, several mammal books of SE Asia and Where to Watch Birds in ... Also PDFs of trip reports. So I had a set of all mammals without carrying any book (which are horrendously heavy or expensive). I met a tour guide who carried such way PDFs of many mammal, butterfly and reptile books.
 

Andrew Whitehouse

Professor of Listening
Staff member
Supporter
Scotland
portable powerbanks & mini-solar panels work super-effectively these days & are cheap

When I go abroad I generally have a powerbank that will recharge my phone at least a couple of times. I can also recharge the phone if I have access to a vehicle. And I usually take a fully charged spare phone with me. The lack of electricity supply in some places isn't normally much of an issue these days.
 

jurek

Well-known member
Doesn't the weight of these powerbanks and backups add to an equivalent of a nice book or two though? :)

First, powerbanks stay in your big luggage. On the day trip you have only the smartphone.

Then, smartphone you use for calls, navigation, whatsapping your Indonesian guides (SMS or voice call is less common in Indonesia), even for an occasional phone home. So you carry it anyway.

Then is a question of scale - 5 books on a smartphone do not weigh more than 1.

Since I was shown an experimental app of Birds of New Guinea, I suspect that within 5 years virtually all countries will have a dedicated bird app.

Things to consider are:
A stash of resealable plastic bags, 1 and 3 liter, sold cheaply for wrapping lunch. Needed also for books and everything else. One of my books did turn into a mass of paper pulp and paint in a heavy rain, too.

Managing your information. Don't drown in folders. Order your books and calls in folders - I did it by places, class of animals and in calls by bird families. Add numbers or letters in front of the names to upgrade folders you need and downgrade ones you don't need (e.g. entering New Guinea from Bali I rename folders: 0 NG bird book and ZZZ Bali bird book).

Sturdy plastic cover for your phone and a screen foil (ca 5 EUR each).

I will see how this system works in future, now with multiple smartphones in the group (to insure against breaking down one) it seems to be better.
 
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peter.jones

Former supporter. No longer active.
Supporter
I've been in heavy coastal rain recently when a paper book would have just turned to mush.. the phone survived, but was struggling. Raindrops from my hat were actually tapping the screen more reliably than my fingers!
But I got there in the end.. It was a Pom!

Try and get a waterproof phone.. mine has had several dunkings but seems to cope fine.
And also beware, whether you have paper or phones, most of the damage happens when you forget about them and leave them wet in a waterproof bag for a few days after the trip, or with water trapped between the phone and case.

Best birding is always in bad weather;) There are no other ******* about for a start!
 

peter.jones

Former supporter. No longer active.
Supporter
And something else I've realised, with my own books.. 100% paper or 100% digital is never going to be the right solution. I look at my paper books, they are all UK Flowers, insects, butterflies, etc. typically associated with nice weather!

My digital guides and apps are all pursuits involving potentially bad weather, or long journeys, flights etc.

works for me.
 

peter.jones

Former supporter. No longer active.
Supporter
I can see identification guides in the future being more along the lines of the car advert below.. choose your viewing angle, front, back, side , below, more dynamic. "Video" of flight, and calls.

More an app, than a book though. Just imagine!


Or, something like Google's voice commands, where the app just listens, and tells you what it's just heard... "Chizik"... "Pied Wagtail", that would be cool
 
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Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I think we are a long ways away from running out of reasons for new field guides. Taxonomic revisions, new information on ID, new methods of organizing or displaying information, better quality range maps and pictures, etc. I think as long as there is an interest and someone interested in doing it, we will see more guides produced.
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
Given that habitat change over time, there will continue to be a need for updated range information. Whether such updates can be seamlessly incorporated into a future electronic field guide app ? Possibly, but will economics dictate paying for a new version instead?
Niels
 

birdboybowley

Well-known member.....apparently so ;)
Supporter
England
I'd love a shazam app for bird calls. I mean you can have all the calls of every bird in say, Ecuador, and then u hear an unfamiliar call you'll not even know where to start looking, let alone play it back!! This is why local guides are worth the money ;)
 

DMW

Well-known member
I think we are a long ways away from running out of reasons for new field guides. Taxonomic revisions, new information on ID, new methods of organizing or displaying information, better quality range maps and pictures, etc. I think as long as there is an interest and someone interested in doing it, we will see more guides produced.
I don't think anybody ever claimed that. The premise of the OP is that the major innovations in field guides will likely be in the digital realm, and to discuss what some of these innovations might be. The points you list have all been discussed.
 

DMW

Well-known member
Given that habitat change over time, there will continue to be a need for updated range information. Whether such updates can be seamlessly incorporated into a future electronic field guide app ? Possibly, but will economics dictate paying for a new version instead?
Niels
You can change the date range in ebird to filter out records older than a specified date, and effectively achieve what you describe. As we migrate to app-based field guides, these sorts of things become almost trivially easy to do without the need for the traditional periodic major revision. The way software is heading, you increasingly pay an annual subscription rather than buy outright, and updates are done continuously. Maybe that is the future?
 

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