Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Burning down the house.

Imagine telling your library patrons, "I'm going to take 20 books based on some decision where you had no input and that's all you get to read."

No, this isn't Cuba. This is a library-loaned ebook reader. And yes, before you get all nitpicky on me because Comic-Con is over and you didn't get to ask if The Avengers or Tron or blah blah blah will blah blah, I know that some libraries allow patrons to download new titles to the Kindle and that some libraries use ebooks to satisfy some ILL requests. I'm not an idiot; I just don't care. And you haven't figured that out yet.

I keep falling back on how much technology fucks with us. And I don't see any real benefit from what's new this month compared to last year. So we have ebook readers. But that proves my point. What does it do that's new? It has a screen which is guess is newish. But I still need to type and tap and click stuff. So now I need to learn a whole different way to read.

It doesn't zap the book directly into my brain, so what's the point? It's one step forward, three steps back.

Each time we need to learn a new interface, it's three steps backward.

Don't try to convince me that you are the progressive librarian because you are not. Ebooks have more limitations than printed books. At least, for libraries.

Oh, the.effing.librarian, you are just stuck in the past. You don't want to empower your users.

Ok, I'm reading a book. How many ways do I need to know to read a fucking book? How is making people feel stupid going to empower them.

Yes, sir, click that and move that and slide that and shake that, and, Look! you're reading the first page of an ebook! Welcome to the new world! Now do that 461 more times to read the whole thing!

Library Patron:
Go fuck yourself.
I don't have anything against the Amazon Kindle if you want to buy one for your library to educate your users to what an ebook reader is, to have some fun playing with it, but don't try to convince me that 10 or 20 of those hunks of plastic are going to solve any real library issues. Not with DRM and Amazon's ability to delete books, and the possible privacy issues with Amazon tracking what people highlight on their readers, and even with just keeping a running log of all the books that have been downloaded, or not offering any real library-friendly or open source business model, I don't see any of this being in the library's interest.

We loan DVDs, but we don't loan DVD players. We loan books about using software, but we don't loan the software so you can read the book to learn how to use it.

There are lots of decisions we make already that limit your fun in our library. I like to think that our library is mostly fun and we express that each time we answer, "F. U." when you make some stupid demand.

Every time you embrace a new and different technology, you are only adding convenience to an increasingly limited supply of materials for an increasingly limited borrower population. So you are reducing your patron's freedom of access to information. So don't brag about intellectual freedom while you reduce the overall volume of materials available.

And don't brag about digital access when providing it requires the user to leap all new hurdles in our technological bureaucracy:

Do you have a wireless enabled device? Wifi? 3G? 4G? Do you have desktop or laptop computer? Windows? Linux? Macintosh? Have you installed the software from the link provided on our website? Do you run the security update? Did you connect the wireless device via the USB cable connector? Did you sync the device
and enter its unique ID? Did you choose a password? Did you interrupt the download process by scratching your ass and creating an electrostatic charge? Because that voids the warranty.
This is just as bad or worse than storing all of your print collection in a distant building "in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of The Leopard'."

I had two patrons in the last week who called about their recently purchased Nook ebook readers. One guy just followed along with me until I heard, "Got it. I'm downloading it. Yeah, got it. Thanks. If I need anything else I'll call you."

And during the other call, all I heard in the background was, "Tell him it's a NOOK. Did you tell him it's a NOOK?" while the guy didn't seem to understand anything I said. So tell me how "library 2.0" or mobile or chat reference or digital or progressive is going to help that second guy because the only way he's not going to shove that Nook back in the box and never look at it again is if I tell him to bring it into the library (with his laptop) to show him how to download and transfer ebooks... well, not show him, but do it for him... two or three times...

Screencast? Stop. I'll need to make a screencast just to show him how to watch the screencast.