The death of the library (again)

March 18, 2008

Yes, the same old refrain … the library will be no more.  I haven’t said that seriously (yet) simply because the alternatives have never quite been good enough.  Another step toward making this a reality has quietly been taken, however, and it’s only a matter of time.  I was listening to discussion of the Amazon Kindle today and realized that this was an important step.  The Kindle is Amazon’s e-book reader, and that will cause lots of library people to snort and talk about how they’ve already been down that road and nobody wants those things.  Of course, that road was traveled in typical library fashion … the first e-book readers were announced, everyone said “oh, this is the replacement for the book”, some libraries bought a bunch, nobody cared, the e-book was declared a failure. This is the equivalent of taking the very first television, announcing that this technology would change everything, setting up big box stores with walls of the primitive devices, and when  people didn’t flood in (because they had no idea what to do with the things  and there was no content), announcing that the TV was a failure.

The Kindle, however, does some important things.  First it takes some steps in making reading a natural process with relatively ink-on-paper like viewing and reasonable ease of use.  It also (and this is cool), will read any of those books to you in audio format, which is becoming more popular among people who want to hear something interesting while doing something else and people who just like books in audio form. That’s not all, though … the Kindle also connects directly to Amazon so that you can get a book anytime that you think of one.  What they did right with this is that Amazon takes care of all of the wireless part for you … you don’t need to do anything, the Kindle just connects and gets what you want (via the 3G cell phone network).  That connects you to a lot of material and you can pretty much get whatever you want for a few dollars.  As someone said today, “it would be great if absolutely every title was available this way”, and that’s when it struck me.  If absolutely everything was available that way, I think I’d want one.  Not only that, but I certainly wouldn’t be making many trips to the library if I could get whatever, wherever, whenever, and had the database of Amazon there with ratings recommendations, etc.

So, it’s another step closer … I can’t even get one of these things yet for use in Canada, but it certainly is the right idea.  I think that I’d use a Kindle like crazy, being the type that just loves to accumulate information.  Right now, I am controlled by having to get to the used book store, or consider shipping and time-lag when ordering online. I can’t visit Amazon without finding ten things that I want … this would take down all of the barriers …



  1. Two things: a) it runs on batteries, which will be a barrier to ultimate portability for time to come. It’s bad enough that I have to monitor the charge on my cellphone and mp3 player, but my books, too? b) The Kindle is ugly as it comes. Who’s idea was it to make it the same colour as 1st generation PCs?

    But, you are right. When this thing is done right (not sure this is it), then it will be a serious threat to the library’s print collection.. which is all the more reason to be ramping up and marketing the ‘other’ things that we do as well.

  2. Just read this post on gizmodo (http://gizmodo.com/369235/amazon-kindle-and-sony-reader-locked-up-why-your-books-are-no-longer-yours)
    and thought of you.

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