Another university has opened a bookless library. It is again a STEM type of university, which makes sense since most of the content used in that type of research and study is reference material. Read the article here. There is not much surprising or innovative mentioned. Instead it seems like a natural evolution for this type of university library.
Way back when I first started circulating Kindle 2s one of my first concerns about ereading was whether or not a reader would retain as much information from ereading as traditional reading. My question came from my own initial experience of the disconnected feeling an ebook had. It was only one page on a screen, and the traditional sense of continuity I felt with print books was not there. I did some informal surveys across a wide spectrum of readers and discovered similar disconnects. So I drafted a study with a graduate student that never got completed. But the question remains. And research is not definitive.
This study identified one particular weakness in ereading that resonated with me, because it relates to my questions above. The researchers are puzzled by the fact that the differences are all related to time and temporality, but I would guess that is because they are not as deeply connected to technology or understand the nature of tech's disconnected, immediacy. In essence, humans are physical beings who interpret and relate to the world around them through physical mediums. Tech takes that away, so it is difficult for human beings to create a sense of continuity in the ereading experience. That is not to say that our brains could adapt to this new form and develop mechanisms for creating temporality, but it is more difficult with just text. If the researchers had used a picture book I would guess that the difference between ereading and print reading would vanish, because the test group would be able to sort the images more easily.
Lee Child is supposed to be one of the soberer voices in the battle between author's/traditionalists and newcomers like Amazon. So it is a bit frustrating that his thoughts on the subject are so shallow and subjective. The most painful one is his assertion that consumers don't care if a book costs a few pounds more. It is hard to make much of his argument, as I am sympathetic to him and the traditionalists, but arguments like this make me feel that their answers to the problems are reactionary and not helpful:
While often unappreciated and unnoticed, the US military has been instrumental in some of the most innovative and significant tech developments of the past 20 years. And they are at it again with printed food. The only question is: Will it be classified organic?
Don't laugh, because it's a legitimate question. Socially, we think of organic as equivalent to "natural", but that is not how food is classified organic. Technically, printed food would fit most of the criteria for getting an organic label. Fun.
You may remember a post over a year ago about the Lytro full focus camera. Now Lytro has grown up with an SLRish camera whose applications have enormous implications for scholarly and archival purposes.
Close the Libraries and Buy Everyone an Amazon Subscription. It's partly tongue in cheek, partly serious. Regardless, the math is not that good, but it is something some folks will begin thinking.
I could write nothing about this or I could write I book. I don't have the time to write a book (but Jibo could do it for me):
Looks like Amazon is closer to launching it's book subscription service. For $10/month patrons can have immediate access to over 600k titles. The first thing I looked at was the comments section for the article to see how many people would sign up. Then I looked for titles.
Based on those criteria I would say the service has at least even odds for success. Amazon has big name titles libraries don't have, and there is no wait. Based on those unique added value it is easy to see how many of our patrons would simply pay the $10 a month. Moreover, when one factors in the high cost of driving to the library $10 seems more attractive. I was out in California recently where gas was close to $5/gallon in some places and traffic is so bad it can take an hour to get anywhere. I would be tempted to make this trade off.
I was never a serious enough gamer as a kid to even even think that I wanted to be a "professional" gamer when I grew up, but that was because in the 90s, such an idea was ludicrous- even to my most avid gamer friends. We all knew that there was no way anyone would ever pay you money to do this stuff. Right?! That goofy Fred Savage movie was just Hollywood dreaming. As impossible as Disney fairy tales, and as much of a let down when you finally realized that there was no way you make rocks levitate using the "Force".
But the top 8 game tournaments have now reached over a million dollars in prizes with the biggest pulling almost 3 million dollars. I have known a few professional gamers as students and friends and remember the cognitive dissonance they would experience when I informed them that they were already making more money than most of their professors and certainly almost all my librarians. The inevitable, "Why I am going to college then?" always popped up.
What is amazing is that the pros I knew/know were making anywhere from 40-80k/year, and they are not the ones playing in the million dollar tournaments on the list I linked to, which would indicate that the market is quite healthy for making a living "gaming". For example, I knew talented students who quit jobs to simply power up characters in World of Warcraft or unlock/attain various other items/achievements in other MMOs because after I helped them do the calculations they realized that their per hour income selling characters on ebay was so much higher than any other part-time work (usually around $18/hr).
It is also amazing because it could seem to contradict my belief that digitization of goods and services commodifies them. But that is because gaming companies have figured out ways to counteract the commodification effect. Only truly hardcore gamers can attain these feats in a "reasonable" amount of time, but there are millions more gamers who want those achievements and are willing to pay for them rather than put in the time.
The question is how do libraries create value that has similar demand? I have argued elsewhere that our one book per user model is outmoded in the digital arena, as users instinctively know that every book can be replicated immediately. We do know that a small percentage of our patrons are willing to wait on a digital hold list for an item, but how long will that last and will it transfer to new generations of library users? Unfortunately, the gaming example above seems to indicate that while artificial scarcity can be created in the digital economy all that scarcity does it encourage the base population to spend money to alleviate that scarcity. If gamers are willing to buy a character or achievement rather than wait, it seems logical to assume that those potential library patrons will also buy the book rather than wait for it.
Perhaps this is a bad analogue for libraries, as games have an inherent competition that does not exist with reading. But as I mused through my surprise at how much money game competitions are generating, I couldn't help but make the comparison.
A recent New York Times piece by Tony Horowitz on his bad experience with digital publishing has garnered quite a bit of attention, but the story doesn't end there. Nate Hoffelder of the Digital Reader has a different take. Plus, as I like to note we are still in the developmental stages of a "digital" market. It is impossible to assume that what it is now is what it will be in a few years.