In late summer of 2015, I was invited to take part in a gathering at the Aspen Institute for a discussion that revolved around the general theme of how libraries can be more innovative and can drive innovation in their communities. It was one of the best groups and conversations that I have ever had around the general topic of the future of libraries, and I’m thrilled that the work we did is coming out in the form of some great writing and tools.
First up, on the Knight Foundation blog, is the post that explores the work that I was a part of, including a video I did talking about one of the things I’m most concerned about for the future of libraries.
…leads you through a variety of strategic activities and provides worksheets that evaluate the current level of support for your library and the resources needed to plan and convene your own community dialogue.
I’d recommend that libraries and librarians take a good look at these resources. The reports coming out of this work are among the best that I’ve read about the future of libraries, and I’d highly recommend that you take the time to look at both Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries and Libraries in the Exponential Age. The latter is the one I was a part of, and I have almost no complaints about the way it approaches the future of libraries.
I was honored today to be a part of the LLAMA Thought Leader Series for Libraries, talking about innovation. I focused on my own career in libraries, and the aspects of things I’ve done that I considered innovative…efforts and projects that I thought were interesting. The conclusion of the presentation was talking through what the commonalities are in those projects, what I think is necessary for innovation in libraries, and how leadership can support said innovation. If you’re interested in downloading the video or slides, you can find those on the LLAMA website, or watch below.
One last CES 2015 post, collecting the video coverage I did in one place so that you can watch them all at once if you so please. I don’t recommend consumption of video in parallel, though…generally speaking, it’s best consumed serially.
Here’s all five of my CES2015 videos for your viewing pleasure:
CES 2015 Unveiled
CES 2015 Press Day
CES 2015 3D Printers
CES 2015 Best & Worst Wrap Up
Thanks one last time to Springshare for sponsoring my CES2015 coverage. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform.
Here’s my last video from CES2015, a wrap-up that’s full of the best and worst of the technology that I saw. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my coverage, and I’ll get a chance to head back next year for another run at the largest technology show in the world.
If you want to catch up on all of my coverage, you can see everything I posted via this link. And if you have any questions about technology and libraries, want to pick my brain about anything that I saw, or want to ask me about specific technology recommendations for your library, feel free to drop me a line.
CES 2015 coverage sponsored by Springshare. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform.
Just a quick note that I am producing a CES 2015 wrap up video that has a variety of things that I haven’t talked about or linked to yet, including some of my favorite overall pieces of tech that I had a chance to see and play with at the show. However, going through ALL of the video I took is taking me some time (at a quick glance, I took something like 3 gigabytes of video while I was in Las Vegas). Which means editing it together isn’t a quick affair.
It will be out this week. But later this week. Keep watching this space.
I spent the first day of the exhibit hall opening working to see all the 3D printers that I could, and that turned out to be basically an all-day affair. This year CES isolated all of the 3D printers together at the Sands convention center, which turned out to be great…they were all together, and it was easy to compare sizes and capabilities. Check the video for some visuals and commentary on the ones that I paid the most attention to, but here’s the basic rundown for libraries.
There is yet another questionable audio portion in this video where my evil microphone comes back into play. Please forgive me, and know that I will be burning said microphone on the alter of better audio quality as soon as I am able.
My number one choice for libraries that are looking at buying a 3D printer is the Lulzbot Mini from Aleph Objects. Released officially here at CES2015, the Mini will be shipping this month for $1350, and comes preassembled and can be ready to print just minutes after taking it out of the box.
I have been continually impressed with the quality of work that Lulzbot is doing, and I personally have one of their larger Taz printers (the Taz 2) that I have been running for over a year now with almost zero problems. But most importantly for libraries, Lulzbot is a dedicated Open Hardware company, which means that you will never be locked into proprietary parts or software to run your printer. If you need to repair a part, everything is documented and can be sourced from non-Lulzbot sources if needed.
Perhaps obviously I am biased towards open hardware, but I think that it is keeping with the spirit of the Library to support open information in all its forms. My older recommendations for printers included Makerbot…until they started locking down their devices to the point where now they are having serious issues with their newest printers, and customers have no recourse.
Finally, the third in my recommendations for libraries looking for something more interesting, even at the entry level, for 3D printing is any of the products from SeeMeCNC and their line of Delta printers. A departure from the cartesian printers that nearly everyone else makes, Delta-style printers are really eye catching and would be a great addition to a library Maker Space. And with their newest mini-delta, the Eris, SeeMeCNC has hit a very attractive price point for libraries, only $599.
Lots more type of stereolithographic printers as well…these are the 3D printers that use resin-based printing rather than the typical melted plastic that you find in the printers mentioned above. Take a look at the video for shots of the Form1, the Old World Labs printers, and more.
By far the most interesting new type of printer that I got to see was the Voxel8, a printer that’s designed to print in both plastic and conductive ink simultaneously, enabling the 3D routing of conductive structures and circuitry inside the plastic being printed around it. Watch the video to see more about them.
CES 2015 coverage sponsored by Springshare. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform.
Griffey says the LibraryBox will “take the ‘pirate’ out of PirateBox.” That doesn’t mean exorcising the spirit of the larger PirateBox project, which its creator Darts says was “inspired by the free culture and pirate radio movements” and serves as a “playful remixing of the title of the world’s most resilient bittorrent site, The Pirate Bay.” Rather, replacing “pirate” with “library” makes it more apparent, in Griffey’s case, that this is about open access to information and to books. As he describes some of the inquiries he’s received about the LibraryBox, it’s clear that this device could have enormous potential for boosting literacy and education and for opening access to digital educational materials.
PirateBox alone is a great idea. LibraryBox, says Griffey, is customized to be friendly to library needs. At first I raised an eyebrow at that. What library needs merit a fork? Then I thought of several:
A primary mission of libraries is to increase access to information. LibraryBox could provide access to information resources in conditions where political oppression is preventing it.
Sometimes technology is used to block access to information, either through aggressive monitoring, IP blocking, or filtering. LibraryBox is technology that reverses this blocking.
One of my current interests is the aggregation of distributed data fragments into a whole, especially as the web grows bigger and more complex. Like libraries, LibraryBox is designed to deliver data in highly localized contexts. It is an instant intranet, a domain of knowledge. Lots to think about here.
Go read both stories, and comment if you’re interested in the project.
In other LibraryBox news, I started a Google Groups listserv for the project, in hopes of getting people who are interested talking to one another about it, and generating ideas about use, as well as sharing implementation issues and challenges. Come help define where the project heads next!
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several years thinking, writing, and speaking about ebooks. I’m on the Board of Directors of Library Renewal, a group dedicated to finding ways to make the ebook experience a good one for libraries, publishers, and authors. And I’ve spoken all over the US and Internationally about eReaders and how digital content changes libraries. So what I am about to suggest is something that has been rattling around in my head for some time now, and I feel like it’s something that I’d love to hear other thoughts about.
So as the Joker said in The Dark Knight Returns:
When we look at how libraries, pubishers, and authors all interrelate vis a vis electronic content, specifically ebooks, the models that are largely being forwarded are straightforward economic models. The rights-holders have content, we want content, we pay them for content. Most of the disagreement comes down to the details: how much are we paying, and what rights do with have to the content that we are paying for. The majority of “new” models that are being trumpeted in libraryland, like the Douglas County Public ebook model, are just differently-arranged ways of doing exactly the same thing…which, admittedly, gives different outcomes on the two contentious fronts (cost and rights) but isn’t actually new in any significant way.
In an economic system, when one side of an equation (libraries) want something from another side (rights-holders), there is an exchange of value that takes place wherein both sides agree that said value exchange is fair in both directions. Libraries pay money for content…this is, at its base, just a value exchange between libraries and publishers.
Libraries don’t want a free ride as far as ebooks are concerned. Every single librarian that I have spoken with is perfectly willing to continue to pay for content. Unfortunately, the economics of libraries are such that when we want more rights (the ability to check out ebooks to any number of patrons simultaneously, or the right to ILL ebooks, etc) we don’t have the ability to exchange our typical economic instrument (money) for them. Think about Amazon and their ability to put the Harry Potter books into their Lending Library…freely available to anyone with an Amazon Prime membership. Libraries would kill for the right to do this, but Amazon is the one that can write the check. If we had tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to throw at publishers, we could dictate any rights we wished. But we don’t.
So the question that’s been bugging me is: what else do we have, besides cash, that is of value to the rights holders and could be traded for more of what we want. Libraries generate value in enormous numbers of ways, but what do we have that publishers might want that would give us some bartering ability?
Finally we get to what I’ve been thinking of as my heretical idea. Because when I think about what other thing of value that libraries have that could potentially be traded to publishers in order to get an equivalent set of value back from them in the way of ebook rights, I keep coming back to one thing:
Information. Information about our patrons, information about our circulations of individual books, and demographic information about our users and what books they read.
I know. A lot of librarians just stopped reading, or perhaps began clutching the arms of their chairs a bit too tightly. Patron information! The holiest of holies in library land, the Thing Which Must Not Be Shared! One of the core tenets of librarianship is that the borrowing history of the individual is sacrosanct. And for very, very good reasons…it doesn’t take a paranoid person to see the ways in which reading histories should be kept private, from the teenager looking for information about sexuality to the individual checking out a book about chronic illness (you wouldn’t want your insurance company to know that, now would you). As the saying goes, “show me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are”.
But this information is valuable. Publishers would love to know more about their readers, as it helps them to make better decisions about what to publish, how to market, and what sorts of books that a given population is more likely to buy. The amount of data that libraries could have in this realm is enormous, and could be a huge lever with which to move the playing field that we are all currently on regarding ebooks.
I am very aware, there are huge problems with this idea. The data in many cases is actually non-existent (libraries are very good about dumping this data so that it can’t be used by law enforcement or others in negative ways against readers). In order to maintain any sort of patron trust, there would have to be serious thought given to sanitization of the data, stripping of individually identifying information, and more (and yes, I am aware that stripping of individually identifying information has been shown to bebasically useless…I retain some hope that there is a way to do it that isn’t). It is also the case that with the rise of cloud-based ILS systems that this information is going to be more available than ever, and centralized on servers that are out of library’s control.
But if we want the next decade to be a good one for us, libraries and librarians need to put some serious thought into what our other value-creation areas are, and how we can begin to identify and trade on those against the rights-holders. Because our money is getting thin, our prices are going up, digital is likely to kill our existing model completely, and we need new ways to think about these things.
What else do we have? What sort of leverage do we have that we aren’t using? What can we bring to the negotiating table that we haven’t yet?
Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting to the librarians at Western Kentucky University during their 2011 kickoff event. When discussing a topic with the Dean, I was told that they were interested in the future of the academic library, technology, and how to manage the changes that are coming. That’s definitely in the sweet spot of my library interests, so I gave it a shot. Below you’ll find a slideshow with accompanying audio of my presentation, along with the Q/A session at the end. The whole thing is about 1.5 hours, but my presentation is just the first hour or so. I’d love to hear what you think, especially if you disagree with any of my points.
Keynote about the future of libraries, change management, and technology over the next 5 years given to Western Kentucky University Libraries, August 24, 2011 by Jason Griffey
It seems many publishers have been told by the company that in the near-future, they should be submitting their books to Amazon in EPUB format and not exclusively MOBI. They also went on to let us know that Amazon was indeed planning something BIG and that soon the Kindle ereader will have the full capability to read ePub books.
Is this possible? Sure…all it would take is a quick software patch and every Kindle in the land could read ePub files. The questions we should be asking, though, are: What does it mean for patrons and for libraries? Why would Amazon do this?
The second question is easier to answer: If true, Amazon is almost certainly positioning themselves for the release of their Android Tablet. There may be good reasons to move to ePub as a result of that, including support for much more complicated media types. The article linked above says:
MOBI/AZW is known to have similarities with the ePub data structure and has most of the code embedded into its format
which is not quite true…both are markup languages, but ePub is a much more modern filetype, and is a combination of open standards (XHMTL for content, XML for structured metadata and such). If Amazon does have a tablet up their sleeve, moving to ePub could be necessary for those plans.
The first question is harder, but the answer is, almost certainly that ePub don’t mean shit to libraries or to patrons. Why? Our good friend DRM. It is extraordinarily unlikely that Amazon will replace their own DRM with that used by the library industry (and by others in the eBook world), Adobe Digital Editions. If you aren’t familiar with the various DRM used in the industry, I’ll refer you to my previous post on eBooks, Filetype, and DRM.
So what this means is that while the Kindle might get ePub abilities, it almost certainly won’t get Adobe DRM capabilities. There is no chance that Amazon is going to give people the ability to purchase books from Barnes & Noble and load them onto their Kindle…which is what it would mean if they did turn on Adobe DRM compatibility. So you still won’t be able to load non-Amazon DRM’d ePubs.
Given an ePub-ification update to the Kindle, you should be able to load and read ePubs without DRM. This is almost completely meaningless, because if you had a collection of non-DRM ePubs you wanted on your Kindle, you could just use Calibre to convert and load them.
So for libraries & patrons, the ability for the Kindle to use ePub is a non-issue. It doesn’t give us any ability that we don’t already have. The only advantage here is to Amazon, and only if they are positioning themselves for a new device that needs ePub. Let’s not get too excited about this.