On and off I have been working on a post about technology. I love new technology, am fascinated with the possibilities but at the same time I want to know how it will effect (and affect) things.
Remember the old PDA? The first run of these basically were just electronic address books – and the stylus was rather difficult to use (especially for those of us with less than stellar handwriting). I liked the idea but preferred my old handwritten, scribbled on, little black book. I still do use that little black book (especially for physical addresses of friends/family) but I also my phone’s ability to retain phone numbers. Works for me but it does mean I can no longer remember phone numbers since I no longer dial from memory.
Then there is the downloadable music of today. I’m told downloadable is replacing compact disc (which replaced the LP and cassettee…not entirely and not across the world). This frustrates me. I love music and dislike the idea that I can only get some things by purchasing and downloading. Well, except when you go to see live music of not-so-well-known bands. CD sales is where they can make their money, gigs don’t pay very much and CD (and tshirt and keychain, etc.) sales is where they can make some $$$.
Oh! And books. Books are going away, d’ya know? Yes! It is said that no longer will we have paper, we will be a paperless society (I’ll pause here for your laughter as you look around your office). Instead of purchasing a book or grabbing one from the library, you will purchase and download books to a device. Seems very much like ‘renting’ to me – especially when Big Brother can reach across and delete from my device (referring to the Kindle/1984 phenomena - and ain’t it a kick what book that happened to? Cue Rod Sterling).
I like owning a physical copy. Yes, it takes space but when my computer crashes and my hard drive backup is corrupt…I still have my CD and I can read by candlelight if power dies. I wish I had taken my own advice on physical copy when my phone decided I no longer needed to have any friends or contacts – which happened right after my computer decided to kick the bucket thus killing my phone backup.
Then, of course, is the issue of access. I have ranted and ranted about this. NOT everyone can afford an MP3 player. What? They’re really cheap? Uh huh, so is milk but many still need food stamps or WIC. Oh! You’ll give everyone a player? Sweet. Now, how do they get the music to put on the ‘free’ player? Ah! Simply download it…on what? Can’t download in a public library. Can’t download when you do not own a computer OR have internet access. Oh and let’s not forget the cost of electricity and/or batteries. It ain’t cheap. Then there is the learning curve on how to do this…rant rant rant.
Wow – go off subject much? Yes. Yes I do. Point being technology is great, it really is but let us not forget everyone else. Let’s not build a society of information-rich and information-poor. Libraries can help fill this niche needed to provide all this wonderful technology to the masses. And they do – quietly and without fanfare, libraries are out there helping people get what they need to succeed (as well as entertain).
*disclaimer, I do use downloads. I have downloaded music and books and all sorts of neato cool things. And I love it. But I do also love my physical copies for things I want to go over and over and over and over… I am not anti-technology. I am, though, pro-options.
@librarythingtim tweeted about not ‘owning’ ebooks. We don’t own ebooks and never have. It is rental with strings. Many strings. Strings that change at the whim of the puppetmaster. Who recalls the Kindle/1984 phenomena? It wasn’t that long ago and yet it seems to be wiped from memory.
Let me remind you. Because of an internal ‘glitch’, Amazon reached out across all Kindles and removed all copies of Orwell’s 1984 – whether it was purchased or not. Wiped it off. Erased. This means those who had indeed purchased this tome and then had taken the trouble to mark the text, customize to their desire, lost it. Completely lost it. Of course Amazon apologized. [and is it not hysterically funny that it was THAT particular book?]
We have ‘rented’ e-content since e-content became available. Ask ANY serials librarian about how e-titles disappear, reappear, change the ‘access’ dates or ask the database librarians who deal with the same thing regardless of the promise of the vendor. The publisher makes a change (URL, IP, coverage dates, title, etc.) and ZING, it’s gone. Yes we protest (when we discover the loss) and often, if it is an individual subscription, can get it back but the damage is already done by then.
The repercussions of these changes at OverDrive and HarperCollins have far-reaching potential. If their strategy works for libraries, how long before it goes to the individual level? That when I purchase an eBook I have 26 times to open it before it is locked? Or 35? Or 5?
Awesome people AND publishers are out there, we just need to support them.
Now, that’s the renting/owning. Let’s look at geography. This is something that seems to be not in the Twitter world, or rather I have not found it there. All focus is on the TIMES of access and not the PLACE, which also needs to be addressed. Or perhaps this is the goal? Put something very inflammatory in the contract and focus goes to it – the other ‘little’ things are ignored. But then, I am a bit of cynic.
In OverDrive’s partner update email, they also state:
In addition, our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.).
Well that sounds innocent enough! It sure does! But it has deep implications. One of the comments on the article addresses this best (I’m cutting/paste the relevant bit, read the comments for the full post):
February 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm
…What bothers me more is the possibility of geographic restrictions on users. A huge number of my library’s users are military personnel. The soldier may have a year-long tour of duty in Afghanistan, but he/she is still a resident of our city and his/her property taxes help support our library. Our library cards remain in force for 3 years, so he/she is still a patron in good standing. Why shouldn’t this soldier be able to use our download service while stationed elsewhere as long as it is not a permanent duty station? And what about the business traveler who spends a great deal of time on the road? Should that person really be penalized just because they aren’t nearby whenever downloading?…
Pfft, Carol, this is just silly now! How the heck can they monitor this other than by our circ records? When you access a website it records where you are coming from. It uses information from your computer AND your IP address. So – if you are accessing from an IP not issued in that geographic area… Oh maybe all libraries have to get proxy servers to work around this? Instead of logging into the site with a username/password, perhaps we’ll have to authenticate via a proxy server first? I know some do this already but many do not – they simply have a username/password to get in, usually the patron’s card number and perhaps a PIN. Sometimes it is just the patron’s card number.
Perhaps I’m being too pessimistic. I hope so. I hope I look back at this post and think “How silly I was!”. I want to get to utopia but I think we still have a way to go.
The extremely talented author*, Lucy A. Snyder, has written a very interesting article for Horror World “More on Amazon Rank Tracking and Ebook Sales“. She has links within the article to previous articles on the same subject.
This is the first article I’ve seen from an author with actual analytics of the ‘success’ of the e-books. Lucy, a conscientious and thorough researcher, details her sales from Amazon on e-books. I urge you to go read it.
This fascinates me. I’ve been wondering who is buying all the e-books (other than libraries) since I hear how incredibly successful they are and how THEY WILL TAKE OVER THE WORLD. I do like e-books. I was a hard convert – it wasn’t until I got the iPhone and downloaded some free books from Gutenberg Press that I realized how lovely these books can be. I still prefer a paper version for reading but was overjoyed to have a book at my fingertips wherever I find myself in need (long line? waiting for your friend to join you at lunch? Open the e-book reader and enjoy!).
I knew there was spin in the marketing but these numbers flabbergasted me. “If you said it is so, it will be so” seems to be the mantra. I’m really not that much of a Luddite, I think e-books are waving us into the future. I think the ‘green’ nature of them (as well as the portability) will help on the road to success but I just don’t think we’re there yet. Again, I have to go back to $$$$. Not everyone has the $$$ to get a e-book reader. Not everyone has the $$$ to get any sort of electronic device to read e-books. Not everyone …well, you’ve heard that rant before.
Lucy’s final paragraph eloquently states my feeling:
So, bibliophiles can put down their Xanax prescriptions; everything’s fine. Ebooks aren’t crowding out the “real” books … they’re just giving readers a delightful variety of options. And that’s a beautiful thing.
*disclosure, Lucy and I have been friends since college but I do not use hyperbole to describe her. She is extremely talented, dedicated, and darned nice too. Oh and she’d be a great librarian – she has several cats already (oh come on! Stereotypes exist to mock).