What is the price of free? Really. Very few things are truly free. There is always a cost to be paid. Whether it is giving a company some personal information, or doing some extra work there is always a cost associated with free.
My library will be launching OverDrive in the next few weeks and this has gotten me thinking about the costs of ‘free’ in libraries. Libraries have generally been a place for free content. It’s one of our biggest draws for many people. But what is the cost of free to the person using the library?* Usually it’s time. The person who wants to read the latest bestseller usually has to wait for the book to be available. That wait can take some time. So if you are willing to be patient you can read that book for free. If you can’t wait you can buy the book immediately.
The same is true for OverDrive and eBooks. While waiting for a digital copy of anything runs counter to how we think it should work it is the trade off people make for it being free. For a long time I griped (mostly to myself) about the lunacy of making people wait for a digital copy of a book. “It’s bits for goodness sake! There is no limit to the amount of people who can use this right NOW! Why do they have to wait?” Well the answer is they don’t have to wait for it. They are free to purchase the book from any number of places. If they want the book for free they have to wait for it. It’s not perfect and I don’t particularly like it. But that’s the current price for free when it comes to eBooks and libraries.
Maybe this will shake things up? Maybe not. Hope so.
*Not mentioning taxation on purpose
This week’s links
This post by Seth Godin got a lot of people talking this week. (I think I’ll dedicate this week’s list to this post and some of the responses)While some of the things he says have made a few people angry and defensive I think his last paragraph is rather encouraging.
We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.
A more defensive post in response to Godin.
Supportive response to Godin.
A less defensive post in response to Godin.
A more supportive response to Godin.
This week has been a bit hard. I haven’t really felt like reading much or thinking about anything other than my family. My grandmother passed away on Mother’s Day surrounded by her children in a comfortable place she was 88.
She was a big inspiration to me and is a major reason I am who I am. She always encouraged me to read and learn as much as I could. She taught me to appreciate the beauty of nature and passed on her love of hiking and the mountains.
I’m lucky I got to know her as well as I did. When I was in graduate school she lived within walking distance of my house. I would visit her frequently and we would often eat lunch together. We discussed many things and talked about whatever books we were reading at the time. She was the most well read person I have ever known. She read just about everything you were ‘supposed’ to read and lots of other things. She was NOT a Harlequin Romance reader. I could go on and on but I won’t.
I love her dearly and will miss her the rest of my life.
This week’s posts
This week Google announced they would begin selling Google branded ‘Chromebooks‘ in June. These computers will only go online and will be powered by ChromeOS. ChromeOS is essentially the Chrome browser. The prices are in line with most netbooks but they will have business and student plans. These plans allow businesses and students to lease the machines for a monthly fee ($28 business $20 student). I don’t know if they will work staff but they may be an option for our public machines. The monthly fee covers all upgrades, there is no licensing or security and they even replace the hardware after a few years. How much do we spend on pc’s, licensing and hardware upgrades?
I’m including three posts about this topic today because they all touch on different aspects of the device.
- Chromebook is the Culmination of Google’s Web Strategy, But Will it Sell?
- Chromebook: Like Good Wine, It Gets Better With Time
- Five Reasons why Google’s Linux Chromebook is a Windows killer
I’ve always been intrigued by this idea. Check out a person to learn more about them, their ideas, history and beliefs.
Good news on digital privacy from California. The State Senate unanimously passed a bill that upgrades reader privacy laws to include digital distribution. I hope it passes the House and becomes law. If it does maybe it will be picked up in other states.
This is a good list and worth reading. My favorites:
- Libraries are there for all ages.
- Libraries are there in a crisis.
- Libraries offer the human touch.
Not too much to report for this week. I’ve been thinking about other things. Family has been taking up most of my time and thoughts. Over the weekend I learned my grandmother has days left… To say that I’ve been incredibly sad doesn’t quite describe my feelings. I’m headed home to see her and be with my mother today so this has been a bit rushed…
I did get a good evaluation though. Thanks boss!
On to the readings for this week:
After reading some less than positive things about the public library this is most welcome. David Morris provides a quick history of the public library in the US then follows up with a rebuke of privatization efforts and the closing of libraries to ‘save money.’ He points to some interesting studies that highlight how the money invested in public libraries provides an economic stimulus to the community. I’ll have to try and read some of those. Looks interesting.
Om Malik gives us a very thoughtful post about the past, future and limits of technology. Are people the limiting factor of technology?
If the hue and cry over Apple’s location data collection methodologies is any indication, then are we the people becoming the limiting factor in the evolution of technology and its adoption? Will the idea of what computing can do and what it will be in the future be limited by our collective ability to grok these changes? I mean, things aren’t exactly getting less complicated.
Jeff Jarvis wrote a piece about the business rules and realities of news. I’m including the post here because I think they apply to libraries as well. They could probably apply to a variety of occupations. Some of my favorites:
- Tradition is not a business model.
- Virtue is not a business model.
- You no longer control the market. You are a member of an ecosystem.
I’m beginning to like Francine Fialkoff. This post on the commonalities of librarians is thought provoking. She attended the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conference in Philadelphia recently and believes the disparity between public and academic librarians is shrinking. One of the sessions she attended featured ‘next-gen’ librarians. They focused on a set of virtues that we could all use:
collegiality, playfulness, collaboration, flexibility, creativity, courage, and service-orientation, characteristics that must span the profession if we are to move our libraries ahead.
I also like the ‘rapid prototype model’ she mentions. It is essentially a philosophy that encourages:
incremental testing so that failure comes quickly in the process of change and at little cost.
Two things on a pollen related note:
- We learned that my oldest daughter has basic pollen and mold allergies this week.
- Pollen levels have been pretty high in the Richmond area lately.
That makes for an unhappy little girl. I guess we’ll help the good people at Claritin put their kids through college now…
- Proposal #1: We want to have a discussion with other attendees about the future of libraries, what they think about them and how we can make it better. The plan is to have a brief presentation about changes libraries have managed already, show some things other libraries are doing now to manage change then open up for discussion. Will it get selected? Don’t know. It’s worth a shot though. We are calling it “Library Crystal Ball” (cheesy…or clever?)
- Proposal #2: Technology Petting Zoo. We’re bringing the library’s gadgets and are encouraging other conference attendees to bring theirs to this session. Instead of standing in front of a room and telling them about what the gadgets will do we will encourage them to play with them and ask questions. We are calling it “Bring Your Own Gadget…or not”
We’ll find out in June if either of our proposals are accepted. I’ve never presented at a conference before so if they pick one or both it will be my rookie presentation. Should be fun though.
The links this week are all over the place. Municipal broadband, a library ‘love’ letter, more eBook frustration, a library prediction and a great discussion about a popular service.
Since we recently began offering Freegal, I found this post very interesting. As you can tell from the title, Sarah doesn’t like Freegal. Her reasons are solid and she makes a good argument. The comments are where the real action is though. Wow! That’s a fantastic discussion.
I don’t share her opinion. My experience with the people at Library Ideas has been pretty positive. I do worry about the sustainability of the service though. It’s not cheap and it is not a core service. We may not renew our service if things don’t improve financially.
Oh wow! Where to start? This is a very interesting piece. Mike Shatzkin is a pretty smart guy and he discusses the future of libraries here. It’s a thought provoking piece. Here’s a quote:
The core purpose — the founding purpose — of a library, around which other things have grown, is to deliver access to printed words. Even the smallest local library almost certainly had more content housed within it than any individual had in their home and, in most cases, far more content than would be available at any local store. It was the books in the library that initially defined the library and attracted a core of patrons to it. When all of us have access to more books on our screens than are in the library, what’s the point to the library?
But not all is lost. He finishes up with this:
…librarianship will be needed by people long after buildings full of books are not. That’s going to require an entirely new business model that hasn’t been invented yet.
I’m really looking forward to the weekend. It’s been a long week and I don’t feel like I accomplished much.
I’d like to thank Nate for reposting my Modest eBook Proposal post on his site. It’s gotten some pretty thoughtful comments. I appreciate that a lot. It’s good to get comments about eBooks and libraries from people not employed by libraries.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with regards to eBooks, publishers, and libraries. It’s a bit scary and not only because I’m many years away from retirement, with a mortgage, and a family to support. I think libraries are one of the only places left that can actually benefit ALL of society. But we need to change how we do business if we are going to be around for the next 100+ years. We should really question our focus and how we chose to spend our community’s money. I have no answers. Lots of questions and hope are all I can offer.
Hope you enjoy this week’s links:
Francine Fialkoff thanks Harper Collins for making librarians question the current model of digital distribution. I do too.
David Lankes give us his opinion on publishers, digital content, and libraries. I’ve been looking forward to hearing what he has to say on this issue. He doesn’t disappoint. Here’s a quick bit:
We shouldn’t be angry with publishers – we should help them see there is life in the digital frontier – that they can be more than their inventory. Just like us. And like us it doesn’t have to be for free (libraries are not free – members pay for them with tuition, taxes, budget lines and so on).
This is a very interesting article about the effects of file-sharing on the recording industry. The author highlights some studies that suggest illegal file-sharing did not have the negative effect the recording industry says it did. Other factors (ex lousy economy and reduced discretionary income) are more likely the causes of the decline in revenue for the recording industry. Definitely worth a read.
Steve Matthews discusses the difference between the library as ‘Community Center’ and ‘Center of the Community’. Big difference.
I’m sure risk management would love this idea. While we may not run with this particular type of program/service it is worth thinking about new ways to engage our community. Ideas like this, while they may not stick, are good to consider.
This week’s list wouldn’t be complete without reference to the Google Books decision. Ars Technica does a good job of summing up the implications of Judge Chin’s decision.