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.