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Old 10-22-2006, 12:31 PM   #1
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Will you miss library buildings if libraries ever go online-only?

Many of us long for the day that there are comprehensive public services available on the Internet. Already there has been much progress, and my local libraries offer some e-books and audiobooks for loan.

But the other side of that, in the long run, is that there is potentially not enough justification to fund community library buildings or maintain large city libraries. I'm not suggesting that this is going to happen in the near future or even our lifetime, and the physical books still have value and need to be preserved. But as I look at these pictures of libraries around the world, I can't help but feel the great loss if library buildings were shut down in favor of smaller buildings. We take it for granted, but personally I'm not ready to lose the ambiance and tactile joys of traditional libraries, and all the additional opportunities to gather, study or get away.

Reading at a Borders book store just isn't quite the same.

Via BoingBoing.
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Old 10-22-2006, 12:55 PM   #2
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I suppose we could dispose of the books but not of the shelves. Here is the idea: the bluetooth/wifi antennas in the room are able to triangle your device. Depending of where it is, you see in your screen the books in the corresponding shelf, only that the books are not anymore there!. You walk around the library to find the book, as always. You move to the history section, your eReader shows you history book. You move to the Science section, your eReader shows Science books. You select a book, the reader shows "related" books, as amazon does.
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Old 10-22-2006, 05:14 PM   #3
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Nope. Won't miss them one bit.

I've been in a library looking for books maybe 5 times in the last 20 years. In every case, I found the books there to be grossly out of date - assuming I found any books on the topics I was looking for. The last time I was in a library I found useful was back in college.
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Old 10-22-2006, 05:19 PM   #4
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C'mon guys! Most of the books in the libraries I go to are reference only. They'll never close those. Stop jumping the gun! Ebooks, right now, are geeks only! Who else would pay 400 bucks up front, before content, for a reader? Joe middle who won't.
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Old 10-22-2006, 05:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yvanleterrible
C'mon guys! Most of the books in the libraries I go to are reference only. They'll never close those. Stop jumping the gun! Ebooks, right now, are geeks only! Who else would pay 400 bucks up front, before content, for a reader? Joe middle who won't.
When the technology becomes mature and is massed produced, they won't be $400. They'll be closer to $40.

Then, if publishers wake up to reality, books should start selling for less since their costs will be very low due to the lack of physicalness of eBooks. Bookstores and libraries won't need to pick and choose what titles to carry, due to limited shelf and warehouse space. All books will be available all the time.

Joe Middle Class won't pay $400 for an eBook reader plus 20% more than paper for books. But he will pay $40 for a reader and $1-5 per eBook.
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Old 10-22-2006, 05:32 PM   #6
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I go into them pretty rarely. When I do I am almost always disappointed. It seems that no matter what book I want, they have one copy in the entire system, it's loaned out, and there's a waiting list so long that you won't get the book at least until the paperback is issued.

Like most government entities, libraries are often subject to serious cutbacks.
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Old 10-23-2006, 10:29 AM   #7
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Has anybody ever done research using historical books? Those will never be scanned and will never be, as they are'nt today, part of of any futile market. That is akin to selling the Acropolis and transform it in a condo. EBOOKS ARE AN ACCESSORY, PAPER IS THE BACK-UP. Books are not only novels or trivial passtime stuff. What would you say if someone scanned "The Declaration of Independance" and threw it away because it is now electronic? Granted that the comparison is a little harsh but we must remember that e-content is volatile. Paper will never be replaced. E-content is practical for everyday use just as you would'nt wear your best clothes to repaint the living room.Period.
But I do agree that the Library's vocations or uses will evolve. As Alex has pointed out somewhere else, libraries have a social, physical, people gathering function essential to every scholarly activity. If you wish, you can base your life on something volatile and superficial, but it is your choice only. The Library is humanity's most stable repository of knowledge, and has not met it's match yet...
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Old 10-23-2006, 01:38 PM   #8
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There are various scanning activities going on right now (Google partnering with Stanford, Harvard, Oxford, Yahoo/MS doing similar, the French sponsoring a non-English scanning initiative etc) aimed at offering out of copyright material electronically - you probably will be able to get the historical books electronically.

I don't think the intention of this thread was to suggest that books would be destroyed (it doesn't follow that offering them electronically means they will be destroyed) and the disappearance of public library buildings doesn't mean books won't be stored, it means the public won't have such free access to the physical artifact (for instance in the UK - there may be regional storage repositories, but public access only available say at the British library or a few region libraries rather than in every town and at every University).

I agree rlauzon that people won't pay even $100 for a reader ... however if access is via a home PC, through a public reading room (as opposed to library) PC - or a PC in say Borders ... this is by far the most likely scenario in the short term rather than a dedicated reader ....

The library as a repository I agree has a long future - the library as a place we actually go in 20 years time?
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Old 10-23-2006, 02:20 PM   #9
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20 years is short and will not change the habits of generations and generations. The book has always been free of access to poorer people through libraries. It is the only way to keep a nation educated past the mandatory schooling years. An e-library would not be free (although project Gutenberg is making great strides here) and how many people can afford internet as it is?. If one reads once in a while, it can be easy to say yes to companies living off book sales. This can represent danger for others who can not pay for further education, vigilance is important. And what about the conditions the publishers want us to abide by? DRM? Imagine a DRMed library!
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Old 10-23-2006, 05:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yvanleterrible
20 years is short and will not change the habits of generations and generations.
I don't think this is going to be much of a sticking point. I think those habits are already fading fast.

I mean it's not like the only discussion venues going are still the general store porch or the barber shop -- MobileRead itself is an example of people letting go of physical locations to continue traditional social activities -- and it's nowhere near as big as say, myspace for instance.

It has its advantages, allowing folks from literally all over the world to participate, but it does remove a lot of the 'humanity' from the interaction, and I'm not sure that's always a good thing. I think a lot of society's problems are exacerbated by increased anonymity. Cities allow people to be unknown in a way that is impossible in a small town, so some will do things that they'd never do if they were in an area where they were known. On the web, a person can be anybody he claims to be, and it's not only complicated to find the truth of who someone is, most folks don't even bother to try.

But back to the actual point, I think society has already gone a fair way down the road to giving up traditional location based activities in favor of virtual locations. So in 20 years, when I'm 55, my parents are in their 80's, and today's teeny-bopper myspace denizens are in their 30's, I just don't think that those habits of generations will be all that strong a bond.
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Old 10-23-2006, 05:02 PM   #11
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I think it is a generational thing, as I've said before. Personally, I adore libraries. My husband has been known to suggest I go to the library when I'm down because he knows how happy it makes me just to be amongst all those books.

That said, I do do a lot of research online. Just yesterday I downloaded part of Carlyle's 19th century book on Frederick the Great from Gutenberg. I spent half the afternoon formatting it, then printing it to a PDF.

I still need a decent ereader though. Ebooks (fictional) are fine to read on my Palm, but for PDFs (non-fiction) I need something I can annotate on the go. Not sure if that even exists yet.
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Old 10-23-2006, 05:25 PM   #12
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If you're making your own PDF files, you can size them to the iLiad, and you'll be able (someday) to do your annotations as you describe ... once annotations are implimented on the iLiad, that is....
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Old 10-23-2006, 06:54 PM   #13
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You continue to talk as if the day will (soon?) come when ALL books will be available in e-form. Consider this: a friend of mine who is a V-P at New York Public Library told me that Sony will not deal with the company that provides ebooks to NYPL, the result being that NYPL ebooks will not be available for the Sony reader. Such stories will be repeated over and over. Certain books will be readable only on particular devices, and certain books will not be available at all in e-form for copyright reasons. I don't see these problems being resolved anytime soon, and hence continue to be sceptical about the success of the Sony and other ereaders.

BTW, a lot of library material, especially old journals and newspapers, cannot be scanned owing to their awful condition, or can be scanned only at tremendous cost.
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Old 10-23-2006, 07:43 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Consider this: a friend of mine who is a V-P at New York Public Library told me that Sony will not deal with the company that provides ebooks to NYPL
Yeah, they're only dealing with publishers right now, as far as I know. Which seems a reasonable approach since it is not their goal to digitize existing libraries (such as the NYPL), but rather to provide a successful electronic reading platform. Having the Library holdings available electronically would be a boon, but it's the least bang for the buck towards their actual goal.

Just out of curiousity what does this company that supplies NYPL want to work with Sony on? Since you specify that it is a single company (as opposed to the collective publishers/authors of the books under discussion), I can only conclude that it's some sort of distribution conduit. Why would Sony want to work with a distribution conduit company? That'd be like trying to work with UPS, 'cause it ships books to Borders.

Unless the company wants to buy e-books from Sony for distribution the libraries it serves, I don't see what they'd have to talk about. That would probably not be something that Sony would have the rights to do (I can't see the pub's letting them at the moment), so they couldn't even talk about that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by radleyp
the result being that NYPL ebooks will not be available for the Sony reader.
That is, to a large degree, up to the library. If they decided to acquire books in a format that would work on the Reader, then their holdings would be readable on the Reader.

Of course, they'd have to have the rights to do so -- it may be that nobody spends much effort going after Joe Blow scanning & OCRing his books in the garage, but you can bet they'd go after something as big as NYPL if they did the same without crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's.

In any case, there are a number of libraries that do offer (at least some of) their books electronically, so apparently it can be done.

(and igorsk may figure out how to run other reading apps on the Reader for us, and then who knows what formats we'd be able to read? )

Quote:
Originally Posted by radleyp
Such stories will be repeated over and over. Certain books will be readable only on particular devices, and certain books will not be available at all in e-form for copyright reasons. I don't see these problems being resolved anytime soon, and hence continue to be sceptical about the success of the Sony and other ereaders.
The tower of e-babel has been a mess for a long time, and you've got your finger on the real sore here: the need for a standard e-book format (that's a discussion I won't go into here and now, ). The only difference now is that there seems to be some actual interest in developing a standardized format. I don't think it'll happen tomorrow, nor perhaps next year (or the next, or ...), but I think it will eventually happen, and that alone will change the whole game.

Remember, 20 years ago, the whole idea of e-books at all was greeted with the same sort of skepticism you're expressing now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by radleyp
BTW, a lot of library material, especially old journals and newspapers, cannot be scanned owing to their awful condition, or can be scanned only at tremendous cost.
True, a whole bunch of older material wouldn't stand up to scanning, but it's a bit more doable using a digital camera type approach. That same material, however, is in danger of simply disintigrating, and no longer being usable at all (my wife's PhD work brings her into contact with a lot of old texts, and once in a while one will just fall apart no matter how carefully it's handled). Something needs to be done to salvage the contents of such material before simple entropy moves it completely beyond recovery.

Last edited by NatCh; 10-23-2006 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 10-23-2006, 08:12 PM   #15
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I wonder if radleyp was talking about overdrive or netlibrary or one of those library rental e-books providers. My local library has netlibrary. They are DRM'd pdf files, I think. I have only used audiobooks from the online library offerings so far, but it sure would be nice if NetLibrary would support Sony Reader format and DRM, or vice-versa (the Sony Reader supported NetLibrary e-books).

I don't think it's likely that libraries are going away completely anytime soon, but over the decades, I think we will see them evolve into something different. New ones probably won't focus on paper book collections anymore, and might even have trouble funding a building if e-books catch on. But there are so many roles that a library can play, that for a long time the building is probably still necessary and might still have enough public backing to get funding. Even if it means some kind of virtual book collection like someone suggested above.
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