Tuesday, August 14, 2012

the world of 3D asses

I'll keep this short: I can't wait until kids are creating 3D asses with our library's 3D printer.

Okay, I lie: we don't have a 3D printer.  And I don't know how much of your ass you can scan on one of those things if we had one.  Are there some printer brands better suited to ass modeling?

I don't know if you remember being a kid, but I had friends who photocopied their asses when we first got copiers in school.  And most of the kids who copied their asses were girls.  It's amazing how being handed an unidentifiable grainy black and white photocopy suddenly becomes super awesome when a girl says, "That's my butt."

Don't tell me you didn't think of ass-modeling when you first heard about these things.  And don't tell me that you haven't created a draft of this sign, neither, for when your library gets one: USERS MUST WEAR PANTS. 

From what I've seen of 3D copiers, none have been advertised as being the best for butts and boobs and dongs.  But I can damn-well guarantee you that if your library gets one of these things, then kids will find a way to make it work and you'll be up to armpits in asses.

Monday, August 6, 2012

why your ebook is not a book

People mistake ebooks for books. In reality, an ebook is a data collection tool dressed up in a moderately entertaining narrative.

This is why used ebooks don't work: How do you reset this data collection tool when it's resold to another user? 

The original purchaser of the ebook most likely used a credit card to buy it.  And an email address.  And possibly an iTunes, Facebook or Twitter or other online social media account that allowed the purchaser to share quotes, thoughts and critiques from the reading of the data collection tool dressed up in a moderately entertaining narrative..
Kobo is just starting conversations with publishers about sharing its data. "Publishers are asking, 'What are people engaging with, and how are they engaging?'" - source
"We do have people tell us that what they love about Kobo is that they can sit on the subway and no one knows what they're reading – it does provide some element of privacy." 
I guess. Until the publisher decides to promote the title to all the other readers through the reader or an app on an interactive billboard: "Someone is being naughty and lingering on p. 142 of Fifty Shades of Grey. Quick, everyone, download the book now and see what's got someone on the train with you all hot and bothered."

"Gathered data is aggregated and anonymous." Right. If you say so.  But like any device that can deliver content, an ereader is just another tracking device for computers to monitor our every movements: 
Where were you when you read that book for 90 minutes?  At the airport?  2,000 miles from the address we have on file for you?  [At this point, the computer is programmed to go, Hmm.]  How many other devices were near this one?  Can we assume these people know each other?  Let's see if we can find other locations where these devices have been in proximity to each other. [The computer makes yummy sounds.]

So if publishers begin to allow users to sell pre-owned ebooks, then what will happen when all this data get dirty with other users?  Users whose credit cards are not known because the transaction was done through a third party? Now all those reading patterns and locations become worthless.

So enjoy your tracking device. And know that when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.  And tells you what to read next.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

People. People Who Need People, are the luckiest people in the world.

First, I need to say that I don't know what the fuck the solution is. I just know that the day will come when libraries won't have any books.  Because there won't be any books to buy.  Everything will be online, downloaded or streamed.  And libraries will either contract for space on some company server to store and distribute that content, or they will host it themselves.  Some enterprising libraries will produce some of that content, but most will lease if from elsewhere.

So, accept that as the future.  What should we do about it?

I think the answer is people.  Or more specifically, librarians and library paraprofessionals.  I have this silly notion that librarians are pretty special.  We have varied skills and interests: complex, eccentric; and can and will help you find what you need.

So when I read that librarians have become skeptical of the promise of ebooks as the cure-all for the demise of the library, I say, Right On, Sister.  We should have been skeptical from the start.

Look at a worst-case: most popular electronic content will be owned by about 15 companies: The Big 6, Elsevier, Viacom, Disney, News Corp, Sony, etc. and it's possible that most of them will agree to exclusive distribution agreements with companies like Google, Amazon and Apple.  And it's possible that even Amazon will become it's own media conglomerate, producing and delivering text, audio and video to Kindle users, including Kindle app users, which are most of us with a new phone or tablet.

So if I had to offer a solution to the future ebook problem, I would say Fuck You to the above corporations.  I would cut my e-content budget and put that money back into staffing. We're so busy trying to sell the "invisible web" (our databases and other subscription content) to our users when they don't seem to care.  They can get what they want with a Google or Wikipedia search.

But our library visitors want service.  They want help with technology.  They want someone to help them sort out the visible web.

Answer: Cut the ebook budget and hire more people.

If that's not enough of an answer for you, then follow the lead from the libraries that are hosting local content.  Distribute the works of local authors, artists and musicians. "People don't want that crap," you say, but come on, millions of people are reading crap right now.  And downloading crap.  And looking at crap.  And they do this because they get recommendations from friends, acquaintances or even online sources and generated lists from computer algorithms.  People don't seem to care from where it comes, so long as some other source said it was worth their time.

And when libraries get good at hosting and distributing content, then they can approach publishers and cut deals to host their content.  But on the libraries' terms.

It seems really possible that Google will succeed in proving that indexing the contents of a book is fair use.  And if Google can do it, then libraries can do it.  And that would be the kind digital content that would benefit all of our users -- imagine being able to do a full-text search through your entire print collection from your online catalog.  And if that happens, then libraries might feel more confident about indexing and hosting more content, creating more meta-data to make collections searchable.  Combine this with the growing (?) movement away from licensing ebooks and toward making arrangements with authors to distribute content through the library, and I can see a future where libraries have the kind of control over content they held back in the old days.  And the key to all this is people.

So, cut the leases and hire the kinds of library workers who can create and manage these resources.  Hire more people to help your patrons access and benefit from these resources.

But who knows what's the best course. Like I've said many times before, I'm not the smartest guy in the room: I just have the best ass.