The Kindle and Reference 2.0

Ok, so we’ve all seen the press, read the Newsweek story, and if you’re reading this you probably read my take on the Amazon Kindle. Here’s a new feature that wasn’t heavily marketed for the Kindle, that has a direct impact on library efforts…and the surprising thing is, it has nothing to do with reading a book.

I’m talking about Amazon NowNow.

It’s an “experimental” feature on the Kindle, but NowNow is a human-powered answer engine that uses the Amazon Mechanical Turk group to search and answer questions for users. The service is in beta, and has been for a year or so (Jessamyn blogged about NowNow back in January).

So what’s the big deal? Well, the Kindle is an always-on internet appliance…anywhere you can get a cell signal, you can be online with the thing. Which means that you can ask a question and get an answer, from nearly anywhere, from a human, emailed directly to the device you used to ask the question in the first place. And this is built into the device…yes, Amazon might decide to charge for this, but right now they aren’t.

Is this Reference 2.0? Imagine being asked a research question by a patron, finding the perfect article for them, and being able to send that article to the device they are going to use to read it. Yes, I realize that laptops sort of fill this goal already, but the Kindle is certainly a more user-centered way of getting at this process. The patron doesn’t have to find a way to ask us questions…the device they are using is a direct line to us. It might not be that distinct from a webpage with a meebo widget…but I think it is qualitatively different somehow.

How?

Discuss.

4 thoughts on “The Kindle and Reference 2.0

  1. I think it is different. It’s a direct line – the patron doesn’t even have to visit the library website and click on the Meebo widget.. The patron doesn’t have to know that XYZ Public Library is the one that serves him/her – just that if I go to this place on my Kindle, humans will answer my questions and give me the stuff I need right now. It kind of makes me wonder where libraries were/are in the planning of this service. Is this something we should try to work with Amazon on? Or is it something we can emulate to create better reference services?

  2. I’d want some crazy-strong privacy functions on this info. Libraries go to great lengths to protect the privacy freedoms of their patrons. Would Amazon be willing to fight as hard? Would it be easier for courts to subpoena the person who did the research, than the documentation of the search itself?

  3. I think it is different. It's a direct line – the patron doesn't even have to visit the library website and click on the Meebo widget.. The patron doesn't have to know that XYZ Public Library is the one that serves him/her – just that if I go to this place on my Kindle, humans will answer my questions and give me the stuff I need right now. It kind of makes me wonder where libraries were/are in the planning of this service. Is this something we should try to work with Amazon on? Or is it something we can emulate to create better reference services?

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