To library or not to library…?

DSCF6734I woke around 4-ish this morning, couldn’t get back to sleep and so reached for my trusty Nook e-reader to pass the time…only to find that the charge had dropped below the critical point of usefulness. After tiptoeing through a darkened house, trying to avoiding stepping on sleeping Labweillers, I located the Nook power cable, and plugged it in – and found that it does not automatically switch on when connected to the mains and had to wait another 10-15 minutes before it decided it was powered up enough to be useful again…this I was a little dark on e-readers this morning…

We always watch Breakfast on TV1 as part of our weekday morning routine…cereal (muesli, porridge or Weetbix), toast and a hot cuppa being the other key components…one of the stories discussed comments made by a member of the Marlborough District Council  proposing that public libraries should consider dropping hard copy books in favour of issuing e-readers to library card holders and providing library services digitally.


Looking at their stats, you can see their point…while I don’t agree that councils should issue e-readers – this would be the same as Fatso issuing all its members DVD players – simply if you wish to use a service, then you need to invest in the personal/domestic infrastructure to employ that service. But the idea has merit: some public libraries are already e-lending e-books and one could see advantages for rural libraries that service a large geographic area with a relatively small population base who have to travel some distance to a physical library.

The biggest risk to such a proposal would be the need to ensure the security of the digital intellectual property of each book so that the digital protection couldn’t simply be stripped off. In theory, the same risk applies to traditional books but it’s not the same: copying or scanning a full book requires A LOT MORE effort than stripping the digital protection off an e-book. From this perspective, maybe it would be worthwhile for libraries to issue a proprietary reader that does not allow files to be transferred to other media. This might possibly be similar to the protected printing systems employed by Gremir and Word Of Tanks for their commercial downloadable paper models?

Assuming that all lending from public libraries goes digital (assuming a transitional phase for oldies and others that still prefer traditional printed books), does this mean the death of public libraries? I don’t think so – if anything, with some smart leadership (which might eliminate a number of councils) it could lead to more effective use of scarce resources (people and dollars) to enhance the reading and information assistance roles of a library; the public library of old may be the public I-hub of the future, providing a multi-lane on-ramp to the informational superhighway…

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