In my efforts to reinvent library content models, I have working under the principle of "preserving the unique and vanishing cultural assets of Mesa County." To that end we have projects with local fine artists, a wildlife cataloging effort, are working with local fly fisherman to catalog their unique homegrown flies, and have been working on the stories of veterans. We are starting with WWII and working our way up. The first of our videos was completed late last night:
The Economist has a lovely ebook out on the future of books. It is a very nice read.
England recently finished expanding their copyright exceptions as well as Fair Use. This is a fascinating move, as they were previously more protective of copyrights holders that the U.S. But now private citizens have the right to not only rip CDs (that they presumably own) in England- something we have had in the States for years- but they can also rip DVDs (for personal use). This is a huge step forward, as Wal-Mart, Ultraviolet, and other businesses have contracted with Hollywood to offer U.S. consumers the only legal way to rip their DVDs- at a small price of course. This law makes a lot of sense to me, as the main reason we cannot legally rip is more technical than theoretical. And Hollywood is making as much hay out of that technicality as they can. So England corrected this with some very simple language:
"The personal copying exception permits you to make copies of media (CDs, ebooks etc) you have bought, for private purposes such as format shifting or backup without infringing copyright. "
DVDs are not even mentioned, but they seem to be covered as "media". The same passage explicitly addresses illegally downloaded "video", so it is safe to assume that DVD is legal as well as all other media.
Ironically, England got a much cleaner and more sensible set of exceptions, because they waited longer to make the exceptions. At this point it seems absurd to make a special case for DVDs but not all other media, which is why England allows for blanket coverage of media. What is frustrating is that the U.S. has built in feedback loops where the current DVD exemption from personal copying should have been addressed by now. I normally don't go in for the conspiracy type thinking of folks like Cory Doctorow, but in this case I would have to agree that the reason the U.S. has not had this type of an update to copyright law is because of Hollywood's money. Can't expect all those campaign donations and lobbying dollars to come back empty-handed now...
Unfortunately, none of this allows libraries to do anything new or exciting, as the updates England made to its library copyright laws were very limited.
The title of this post comes from a 90s Wolverine comic where Wolverine decides a frontal assault on the Shield Helicarrier using a Harley Davidson will work because he watched a lot of Evil Knievel. That was the phrase that came to mind when I read this report from the Atlantic Council that a Call of Duty director had been asked to join them as a fellow on the future of war. Maybe the Ender's Game scenario is not as far fetched as I thought...
It is a short press release, which makes it that much more surreal. Video Game director's working on the future of war.
Clay Shirky wrote a well received article for medium.com that has received a bit of attention. The problem was that if you have more than a cursory understanding of the things he wrote about you find yourselves wondering about the quality of both his argument and facts. Thankfully Mike Shatzkin has posted a fairly thorough rebuttal of Shirky's argument. My money is on Shatzkin, primarily because my impression of him is that he avoids hysteria and tends to be a careful and methodical thinker. Plus, he qualifies and expands many of my own doubts about Shirky's article.
The problem is that it can be difficult to understand the nature of the fight between Amazon and Hatchette as well as the general tornado of information and misinformation surrounding the dispute. The drama and histrionics that have typified much of the public debate do not help.
I have heard it argued in many venues that it is only those organizations that are not at the top of their niche that are capable of genuine innovation. This thought has been nagging me since Apple's latest product unveiling. The event itself was not lacking in any of the usual glitz and drama. The problem was that it lacked in any significant innovation. Consider the biggest product: a smartwatch. Apple does not use that terminology because to use it is to admit the fundamental inversion of the traditional Apple trademark: innovation leader. If they called it a smartwatch, they would have to admit that they are following others lead rather than leading.
This is true for their other big product unveiling, the iPhone 6. What is most notable is it's size, another example of following Samsung's lead. Why is this remarkable? Well, now that Apple has reached the top of the market they are behaving cautiously rather than taking significant risks. Many scholars of business and markets argue that this is a predictable behavior. Apple is now entering their phase of market dominance and maintenance. It might have been Ed Bott who suggested a few months back that he expected Apple to begin entering the stage of conservative market maintenance rather than high risk innovation, because Apple has no incentive to take high risks. This is a significant change of plan for Apple.
Prior to this Apple was a company that successfully led consumers and the market in new directions. How many people were aware of how empty their tablet-less existence was prior to 2007? These are two different approaches to filling patron needs:
1. Build/sell/deliver what patrons want
2. Anticipate what patrons need in abstract terms and lead them
This is Henry Ford's observation, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse." Apple had a history of developing brand new products that met patron's known and unknown needs.
Libraries are at a point in their evolution where they need to acting more like the earlier iteration of Apple. Don't build a better book, build a better information ecosystem. Find unmet needs, unexplored information formats, and occupy that space before anyone else does. One of the most frustrating experiences I had when I began writing about ebooks and tech was that my colleagues were focused on very different ideas than I was. The implied assumption from colleagues was that we simply fit them into our existing system and services rather than evolve and adapt. The focus on the book format rather than seeing this as an opportunity to take a step back and realize that we are really information brokers and that format is irrelevant is the real lesson of digitization. I will be writing more about this over the next year as my library explores this in very real terms.
Update: As if on cue, Samsung has a cheeky, "I told you so" ad for their latest phablet:
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: