Go Read This (NOW) | Seths Blog: The future of the library

A really excellent post by Seth Godin on the future of Libraries in the digital world. I think that in it, he approaches the truth for far more then Librarians!

The emphasis added in paragraph two is my own. And I’ve added it because I believe that the role of impresario is currently waiting for someone to step into it. That might mean publishers, librarians, author or booksellers, who it is hardly matters in some senses, but there is a clear opening for someone to act as a central coordinator and promoter. Godin gets this, maybe some folks will listen to him.

And then we need to consider the rise of the Kindle. An ebook costs about $1.60 in 1962 dollars. A thousand ebooks can fit on one device, easily. Easy to store, easy to sort, easy to hand to your neighbor. Five years from now, readers will be as expensive as Gillette razors, and ebooks will cost less than the blades.

Librarians that are arguing and lobbying for clever ebook lending solutions are completely missing the point. They are defending library as warehouse as opposed to fighting for the future, which is librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario.

Post-Gutenberg, books are finally abundant, hardly scarce, hardly expensive, hardly worth warehousing. Post-Gutenberg, the scarce resource is knowledge and insight, not access to data. The library is no longer a warehouse for dead books. Just in time for the information economy, the library ought to be the local nerve center for information. Please dont say Im anti-book! I think through my actions and career choices, Ive demonstrated my pro-book chops. Im not saying I want paper to go away, Im merely describing whats inevitably occurring. We all love the vision of the underprivileged kid bootstrapping himself out of poverty with books, but now, most of the time the insight and leverage is going to come from being and fast and smart with online resources, not from hiding in the stacks.

via Seths Blog: The future of the library.

Bloomsbury’s Online Library

Eoin Purcell

Bloomsbury’s launched a new e-lending service
The details are interesting:

How will it work?
• The Bloomsbury Library Online will be sold on subscription – libraries will subscribe to a bookshelf for a year at a time and will pay according to the size of population served.
• New titles will be added on a continuous basis – free of charge within the subscription year.
• Users will click through from the Library terminals or through an online portal accessible via any web browser (including those found on iPhone and Blackberry) anytime, anywhere in the UK.
• Text accessible through screen readers and therefore available to blind and partially-sighted users.

The system is being run in association with the wonderful exact editions. Bloomsbury claim that it will:

transform the relationship between publishers and libraries, and between libraries and readers

PaidContent have pointed out one possible problem:

If there’s a problem, it’s that the ebook platform market is fragmented – Bloomsbury’s library includes only Bloomsbury’s titles while Exact Editions rival Overdrive carries Penguin, Random House, Hachette Livre and HarperCollins – and, though text can be printed, the experience of reading a book in a web browser is pretty unsatisfying if it’s a novel you’re reading.

I’m not sure that the fragmentation matters all that much. What does matter is that Bloomsbury are there first with a clever system that works well and is based on a tried and tested platform.

In fact
I think the existing notes miss three angles on this launch. One, if Bloomsbury can lock in a good number of libraries to their platform, they will have an advantage over their competitor publishers, how many e-platforms will libraries want to use after all?

Two, the installed base of libraries will help Bloomsbury research how readers use e-platforms, the quirks of reading online.

Three, given that Richard Charkin has had extensive experience of building e-platforms or at least of overseeing divisions of a publisher that were building them (I thinking of Nature specifically here but he was a strong proponent of blogging aswell!) I’d bet on this succeeding. It also fits well into the strategy I’ve considered for Bloomsbury previously

Clé’s Author Editor Library Tour

Eoin Purcell


Thurles library is amazing
It sits just over the bridge and has the most incredible look, feel and atmosphere. A fountain throws shoots of water into the air midstream, there is a riverside walkway and the concrete and steel build looks so european and yet seems to belong in a town that has changed little in style since the GAA was founded in its famous Hayes hotel way back in 1884. You can read more about it here.

Thurles Library

Buildings like this make me begin to think that Ireland really has come a long way since the 1980s. But the reason I am blogging about it has less to do with the fantastic building and much more to do with Clé’s Author Editor Library Tour.

I was least accomplished part of a trio of Mercier representatives there last night for one of two Thurles based events. Joe Ambrose has the misfortune to arrive on time (a slight mix up in times between Clé and ourselves) and the pleasure of speaking for 40 minutes solo before myself and Gabriel Fitzmaurice made an appearance.

Joe is the author of two books for Mercier, Dan Breen and the IRA and Seán Treacy and the Tan War (which has just been released and for some reason that has not fed through to our website!). Both are great stories as well as being passionately written and brilliantly researched. Dan Breen was one of our top selling books last year and I think Seán Treacy looks set to match it.

Gabriel is a poet of note and hails from the village of Moyvane near Listowel, the home town of the late and great John B. Keane and Writers Week (a point he made explicitly clear last night was that he was from the Listowel area but not from Listowel!!).

His most recent work for Mercier was Really Rotten Rhymes a book of poetry for children and one that I think will become a classic. it would be unfair not to mention that his poetry and writing goes far beyond children and he has been publish by over 10 publishers in his time.

It was a great evening and while before the event I was skeptical as to the value of such an evening, I thought that I would definitely do another one if a new season of events is planned for next year.

Special thanks are due to Anne-Marie Brophy and everyone at Thurles Library who put up with one wayward editor and made everyone feel exceptionally welcome there.

Still hearing the poems in my head today

* Forgive the twee music please, its good music just not well matched I think, to the video.

Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 14/07/2007

Eoin Purcell

The unstoppable power of Richard and Judy as seen and told by the The Friday Project people.
Here & Here

Frankly one of the finest and clear sighted (not to mention fantastically brief) discussion of the current state of writing:

With the rise of the web, writing has met its photography. By that I mean, writing has encountered a situation similar to what happened to painting upon the invention of photography, a technology so much better at doing what the art form had been trying to do, that in order to survive, the field had to alter its course radically. If photography was striving for sharp focus, painting was forced to go soft, hence Impressionism. Faced with an unprecedented amount of digital available text, writing needs to redefine itself in order to adapt to the new environment of textual abundance.

[Hat Tip to if:book]

Further to that piece I thought these ones from Tim O’Reilly were definitely worth reading too.
Here & Here

The End of Dewey in some libraries
Here (NYT read it before it goes behind the wall!)

Wow I was tired when I posted this

Google Book Search

Eoin Purcell

Lorcan Dempsey has a very interesting post today (on what is always an interesting blog) about the Google Library element of Book Search. The nub of his point is this:

For me, the CIC announcement moves the conversation about mass digitization to another level. The Google relationship with libraries has seemed like an interesting initiative. But it now seems plausible to think that we are looking at systemic change in how we engage with particular classes of material. Which in turn will cause us to look at the way in which the systemwide library resource is organized.

While the points are more library directed than publishing directed they are certainly completely relevant for our industry.

Enjoying the ideas

What do they know that we don’t?

Eoin Purcell

The Thomson Sales
Thomson sells its Thomson Learning division for $7.75 billion or £3.9 billion depending on your currency. Not only is this a great deal more than was originally floated, it is also a huge boost for Thomson’s $17.6 billion mooted bid for Reuters. An interesting piece by Personanondata gives some detail:

It was approximately 1o months ago that Richard Harrington causually mentioned to the FT that they would consider selling the Learning unit. By October the divesture was confirmed and the sale process started once the final year end numbers were finalized. Any observer of the manner in which Thomson spoke and presented its business would have seen strong indications that Learning did not feature in their plans. The detail and excitment given over to Thomson Financial during the analysts calls was indication enough. Speculation suggested that a price between $5.5 and $6.0billion would be good news for Thomson. As it turns out, Thomson management has kept one step ahead of everyone with some suggesting that the recently announced merger with Reuters has been in the works for two years and their post merger plans indicate that the merger with Reuters has indeed been long in the planning. The extra billion they are getting for Learning will really help out the Reuters deal which looks increasingly cheap.

Cui bono
The question that strikes me is the way these deals have been getting so expensive. Who on earth is going to gain (the obvious exception of the seller) from a deal where a billion more than was expected changes hands for assets that re threatened as much as any publisher by digital and internet technologies. If you read Personanondata daily (as I should and if you are in publishing you should too) you will see that Educational Publishing has been exceptionally active recently. I think there is a smart motive behind all this, the move of learning online just like the authors of Nine Shift suggested a good while ago:

Shift Eight. Half of all learning is online.

The traditional classroom rapidly becomes obsolete. Half of all learning is done online, changing the nature of how we learn and how we teach.

Shift Nine. Education becomes web-based.

Brick and mortar schools and colleges of the past century become outdated. All education becomes web-based, providing a better education for both young people and adults.

But I could be wrong and so I wonder, is there more that I don’t know?

Pondering deeply

Even digital aint safe

Eoin Purcell

Future History
Last week I mentioned this article that was conerned over the future of non-commercial items trapped in non-digital formats. This weekend the FT has an really excellent long feature on protecting our current digital heritage. From the piece:

Like Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, love-letters between Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, and John Lennon’s scrawled first draft of “Ticket to Ride”, these superannuated machines, and the equally venerable computer files boxed next to them, are now part of the world’s greatest library collection. Digital texts – whether e-mails, research projects or literary drafts – are easy to create and even easier to discard. But as John, the library’s first curator of digital manuscripts, is aware, they constitute an increasingly large part of our cultural record – treasures which, if not properly archived, could soon be lost to future generations.

It’s a sobering thought that the Domesday book, written in 1086 on pages of stretched sheepskin, has lasted more than 900 years. Scholars with a permission slip and a sound grasp of Latin can visit the public records office in Kew, leaf through the book’s pages and decipher its inventory of the manor houses and livestock in William the Conqueror’s Britain just as they did in the 11th century. But the BBC’s attempts to create a new Domesday book chronicling British life in 1986 – capturing fleeting historical records such as adolescent diaries and a video tour of a council house – was more problematic. The £2.5m project, stored on huge laser discs and readable only by a brick-like, mid-1980s vintage BBC microcomputer, became obsolete within a decade. Both the laser- disc player and the software it relied on have long since been abandoned. A specialist team from the national archives had to spend more than a year rewriting the software to rescue it from oblivion.

Go read it!