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Monday
Oct242011

Are we asking the wrong question about e-books?

I am stealing this observation (only because he has it first) from Tim Stahmer at Assorted Stuff.

In his post this morning, Seth Godin discusses about how businesses almost always interpret – incorrectly – the impact of new technologies.

The question that gets asked about technology, the one that is almost always precisely the wrong question is, “How does this advance help our business?”

The correct question is, “How does this advance undermine our business model and require us/enable us to build a new one?”

So, what happens if we substitute “school” "library" for “business”?

Both Tim's and Seth's especially resonated with me since I spent part of the weekend working on a set of "rants" about e-books and libraries for short presention at a Mackin book gathering on Wednesday evening that is a part of the AASL conference.

I definitely think a new model for library business is essential if we are going to survive. The number one challenge is listed below ...

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Reader Comments (5)

I completely agree with you, Doug. But many (most?) librarians don't see it.

For example, I had a chance to work with the Ames (IA) Public Library staff about a year ago, who informed me that a) business had never been better (i.e., more visitors and more lending than ever before), and b) only a few people in the community were affluent enough to be able to buy books and videos (and the expensive devices necessary to use them) instead of loaning/renting them. They're planning a multimillion dollar physical expansion of the building to accommodate greater traffic. I tried valiantly to discuss larger, long-term trends with them (because in the end you and I are right, of course!) but they weren't interested.

I think the challenge is to somehow crack librarians' mentality (like universities' recent admissions booms) that short-term successes don't mitigate longer-term realities and the need to adjust for shifted environments...

October 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott McLeod

The availability of eBooks will eventually kill off libraries, IF libraries allow themselves to ONLY be a collection of books. Any decent library has much more to offer its users than just books. We offer instruction, guidance, assistance, equipment, and spaces for people to get things done. If we continue to waste our time bemoaning the fact that people will eventually be able to get their books without us, we are missing the point. Good libraries will evolve, like we always have. Bad libraries will fade away. The question is, what traits of libraries will continue to be relevant? Shelf upon shelf of dusty print books ain't gonna be one of them, I'd wager. The libraries that are more than just books will continue to be vibrant centers of their communities.

October 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLen

I think that you will find this blog It's Not About the Books from Australia very pertinent, and perhaps inspiring!?

October 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNellCR

Thanks for the comment, Scott.

One my favorite library school professors had a simple sign on his door that read "Change or die." Simple but true.

Doug

Hi Len,

As you probably guess, I agree completely. What percentage of the rest of the profession does?

Doug

Thanks for the suggestion, Nell. I've subscribed!

Doug

October 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Students in my LA class are reading books off of their iphones. Once one student asked if he could read from his iphone the idea became quite contageous. Amazing to see!

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersfmsmelnar

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