The difficult thing however about predicting the future of reading is that everything i’ve said so far presumes that what is being read is an “n-page” article or essay or an “n-page,” “n-chapter” book,” when realistically, the forms of expression will change dramatically as we learn to exploit the unique affordances of new electronic media. Ideally, the boundaries between reading and writing will become ever more porous as readers take a more active role in the production of knowledge and ideas.
Although we date the “age of print” from 1454, more than two hundred years passed before the “novel” emerged as a recognizable form. Newspapers and magazines took even longer to arrive on the scene. Just as Gutenberg and his fellow printers started by reproducing illustrated manuscripts, contemporary publishers have been moving their printed texts to electronic screens. This shift will bring valuable benefits (searchable text, personal portable libraries, access via internet download, etc.), but this phase in the history of publishing will be transitional. Over time new media technologies will give rise to new forms of expression yet to be invented that will come to dominate the media landscape in decades and centuries to come.
So that’s it folks. eBooks and I are done. eBooks in libraries are a non-starter, their path has been set for the foreseeable future, and their future is determined by people who are not us. Not by the people who love books, who believe in their power to change lives, but by those who produce them for profit. No, not by the authors (as we all know, they see far too little profit for their labors), but by the publishers…the, until recently, necessary middlemen in the process between creators and consumers. Now that they’re not necessary to the process anymore, largely due to their inflexibility and inability to change in the face of rapidly shifting market conditions, they have attempted to salvage their failing business model with high prices, limited licensing policies, and technology so locked down that it remains impenetrable to many people.
If I hear one more publisher talk about “increasing friction,” I am going to punch that publisher in the face with a pair of book-shaped brass knuckles and discuss the option of dramatically increasing friction cheese-grater-style somewhere else on their physique. Don’t push me Penguin.
Publishers have painted themselves into a corner, a corner that will eventually eat them alive. But until that happens, until the market shakes out, there is little libraries can do that is in keeping with our core ethics and values.
Some of these points are applicable to libraries, as well.
Mistake #2—Paper is Married to Petroleum DOOM
Mistake #3—Reliance on Outdated Gimmicky Marketing Tactics
Mistake #4—Over-Fixation on Tools
Mistake #5—Expecting Commerce Before Community
If meebo was any indication, even established, long running technology services can go away without much advanced notice. What is a library to do with incorporating third party applications, then? There is no way to ensure that all the services and applications that you use at your library will still be in existence for any length of time. Change is about the only constant in technology and it is up to us who deal with technology to plan for that change.
Today America’s library system sits at a critical juncture. The Library of Congress alone has lost some 1300 staff since the onset of the digital media age two decades ago. Until last week, four of the six largest American publishing houses did not lend digital books to libraries, president of the New York Public Library Anthony Marx noted. And last month, the NYPL’s move to renovate its landmark headquarters to include more computers and resources for the general public prompted protests from scholars and writers who wanted to preserve the space for research.
Despite these challenges, the transition to digital media continues to open doors for innovative public service. The Library of Congress is spearheading the creation of a new World Digital Library with 145 institutions worldwide. The project allows the United States, often criticized for supplanting other cultures identities, to help with the repatriation of other countries’ unique cultural memories, said the Librarian of Congress James Billington. The Digital Public Library of America, an online project shepherded by Harvard University to spread knowledge beyond traditional library shelves, aims to launch in April of next year.Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2118141,00.html#ixzz1z1K5J6m6
Add to the list of talking points for the next time you petition your popularly-elected representatives.
And in our world, computers have replaced human interaction. Virtual people have replaced people.
And this is absolutely where Stoll predicted correctly. He concluded in his Newsweek article, “What’s missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact.” He could never have imagined that in the 10 years following those words that we have successfully replaced physical contact with emotional contact and that emotional contact would be derived from tweets and pokes and updates and texts.
These drawings date from 1982 (thirty years ago). Alan Kay had just become the Chief Scientist at Atari and he asked me to work with him to continue the work I started at Encyclopedia Britannica on the idea of an Intelligent Encyclopedia. We came up with these scenarios of how the (future) encyclopedia might be used and commissioned Glenn Keane, a well-known Disney animator to render them. The captions also date from 1982.
The most interesting thing for me today about these images is that although we foresaw that people would be accessing information wirelessly (notice the little antenna on the device in the “tide pool” image, we completely missed the most important aspect of the network — that it was going to connect people to other people.
from if:book - Back to the Future — In honor of Encyclopedia Britannica giving up its print edition
Defining Data Services: A case study on the process at a large research university library
Come, Let us go Boldly into the Present my Brothers & Sisters
Michael Peter Edson (Director of Web & New Media Strategy, Smithsonian Institution)
(doesn’t make policy, not a spokesman)
Bookshelves Are For What, Again? [comic]