July 23, 2013
Fact or friction
I was in a conversation yesterday in which I was reminded of the view of the Sieghart Committee that systems of ebooks in public libraries require 'Friction'
By this it is meant that obtaining the ebook through a library should not be as free and easy as the technology might permit
The purpose of this idea is so that not too many people use the service -so they will carry on using commercial services as well
I hope it only takes a moment's thought to realise what a completely stupid idea this is.
If libraries don't make the ebooks as easy to read as they can be - then someone else will and libraries won't be used.
The kinds of ebooks that are being read are Crime, Romance, Historical Fiction etc etc - exactly the same kinds of books as libraries lend most. And the readers are the same kinds of readers - older people who read a lot and children who have discovered the pleasure
It follows - as night follows day- that if libraries can't be used for the activities for which they are most popular then use of them will fade even more .
There are other ebook models for libraries which do not require this 'Friction' - but no one seems to be exploring those. Not in the UK anyhow. In these models a library can offer all the ebooks in the world - with as little friction as they can manage- and a payment is made to publisher and author each time the book is read
It was said to me in the same meeting that the reason that librarians don't favour such a model is that they are no longer needed to curate and select the stock they offer. The public can choose whatever they like .... the job of stock acquisition by a librarian is no longer needed. (we are talking about public libraries)
I find it hard to understand why librarians would think like that. There is nothing to prevent the librarian from recommendations about what to read - but it seems a good thing that every small library should be able to offer a huge range of ebooks
The Sieghart programme is a nonsense on several levels - and this is only one of them.
'Friction' in this context is a nonsense - in life no one should aim to do things less well than they can be done. That is called mediocrity.
Posted by Perkins at July 23, 2013 8:38 AM
Hello, Tim. Speaking on behalf of Surrey library service, I'll bite the hand off any supplier that can provide frictionless PDA that has the support of the Big Six publishers.
I'm talking about a system where a member of the public can buy an ebook, and the library service pays; then the library service can lend that book to somebody else.
I'm not aware that this supplier exists - is this something you are working towards with Bilbary? How close are you?
Posted by: Helen Leech at July 25, 2013 10:30 AM
Helen - thanks --
no need to bite. If you send me an email I shall explain what we are doing in the US.. also tell me which ILMS you use ..tim
Posted by: perkins at July 25, 2013 2:14 PM
Hi Tim, I'm glad Helen has made contact with you as I was beginning to feel no librarian would speak up about anything. I do feel they should all be up in arms, hanging, drawing and quartering all politicians named Vaizey, but this is at least something. Mind you, I would say many more protests (or at least comments) by serving librarians are needed.
Nice to hear from you, Helen.
Posted by: James Christie at July 25, 2013 6:32 PM
"Evidence from academic libraries has shown that users rarely make frivolous choices"
I think users should be able to make frivolous choices for at least 15 mins per item (mimicking shelf browsing essentially, PLR should distinguish this from actually reading a book).
I take it the discussion here is about:
“I am pleased to confirm that the Chancellor announced in last week’s Spending Round that we intend to extend the Public Lending Right scheme to cover e-books and audio books borrowed onsite at public libraries,” (Ed Vaizey, 9 July 2013)
IMHO decidedly unimaginative, but it is difficult to know what to do otherwise. Websites are used to asking users to prove they are not machines (the infuriating captchas). However even if 'frivolous' issues can be prevented from being automated, then it does not prevent human abuse, or even if not abused the fear being frictionless library lending would result in the majority of book purchases not being necessary - esp. given there is no need to make people queue for a book if it is an e-book. Libraries do not have infinite resources either to meet an infinite demand. But at the same time the aim is that the economic benefits from e-books are realised to their full potential - even being able to browse a book for 15 minutes offsite before deciding to borrow would be useful towards this end, being able to self-issue outside of opening times (or at least until opening) also, etc.
It's a paradox essentially, the paradox of the public lending library in the age of an information and communication technology revolution. Off the top of my head Charles Handy first wrote on the subject of paradox in the age we live, would any of this writing perhaps offer a way forward? [Textbook technique for dealing with paradox? If I had a decent e-book library at my fingertips I could tell you in a jiffy ;) ]
Posted by: Gareth Osler (Library Assistant!) at July 26, 2013 2:26 PM
You are terrible - someone needs to give you lessons in coherent writing
Try and keep your ideas simple and express them in such a way that your mother can understand what you mean.
and don't use long words unless you have to
Posted by: perkins at July 26, 2013 7:34 PM
I am at least pleased that another serving librarian/library assistant has blogged on here. Thanks. However I'd have to tactfully say some editing is desirable.
Incidentally, anyone want to go round the Houses of Parliament and beat up Ed Vaizey? It might not do much good, but it would be fun (admittedly not for Ed).
Posted by: James Christie at July 27, 2013 12:07 AM
I'm suprised that anyone thinks that it is librarians who want 'friction'. It isn't, it's the publishers. What librarians want is a bookfund large enough to ensure that all patrons will be able to choose all the e-books they want, or the software to control the issue of e-books to within the bookfund allocated. No-one is offering us either.
Posted by: Lynne Litchfield at August 6, 2013 10:29 AM
I agree with you - those are the right lines to pursue. - But both the SCL and CILIP - who are the voices of librarians - have indicated strong support for the approach of the Sieghart review .. so it seems fair to say that that is the path that librarians want - or you should tell them otherwise.. I confess I was not surprised they took that route - because they always take the line of least defence and most likely income - but that doesn't make it right
Posted by: perkins at August 6, 2013 12:00 PM