I was on a panel of vendors at Computers in Libraries last week, talking about the future of ebooks. It was streamed by the fine folks at This Week in Libraries (I got to have lunch with Erik and Jaap! yay!), and my talk is at the beginning of that stream but the first minute or two is cut off — they may be putting up an HD version and I’ll tell you if that happens. (ETA: here you go!)
I also have an export of me rehearsing this in Keynote you can have a look at (as it’s a preliminary version please forgive the minor errors). (ETA: now, embedded! Thanks, Vimeo.)
[iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/39297518?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0″ width=”400″ height=”300″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen]
There’s also a final version of the slides [pdf]; they’re CC BY-NC-ND and I’m happy to provide other formats if that’s more useful to you.
I admit: I’m quite proud of this talk. I hope you enjoy it, and I invite debate.
5 thoughts on “my talk at #cildc”
This is a great talk. No debate, because I agree with every point you make.
I hope you’ll write a follow up post on how the talk was received by its audience. I attended a moderated discussion at PLA a couple of weeks ago with maybe 120 public librarians and no one in attendance, including the moderators, saw the connection between the serials crisis and the decisions we’re making today about ebooks. I know this because I raised the point with my small group and also with both moderators. If anything, the overwhelming majority of the room was eager to have a subscription model like the one we have for serials.
You know, there was really less of a reception than I had hoped — I *want* to see debate on these issues. But I was first, and then the other three talks didn’t have anything to do with mine, and a lot of the audience fled when the Q&A period happened, possibly because the room was about 40 degrees.
Also I think people at CIL were just feeling burned out on ebooks issues — lots of problems (that we’ve been growing more familiar with), not enough solutions.
Subscription models interest me. I don’t think there’s anything *inherently* flawed there — I think there’s a conversation that’s worth having about when it’s worth sacrificing the preservation value and what sort of economic efficiencies might be there to be gained, particularly since a lot of books are only really in high demand in the first year or two after they come out, so having access to lots of copies now and one later might make more sense than a straight ownership model. Or, at least, I think debating the pros and cons of ownership models is worth putting on the table.
But yes, I am deeply concerned about the prospect of tying oneself to inflexible subscription models. Because the problem of the big deal isn’t the fact that it’s subscription-based, right? It’s the fact that it’s so all-or-nothing — you don’t have an a la carte model to fall back on, so it’s no longer really possible to say “bundling is cheaper than per-title access” because you don’t even have that option — and no competition among models means the screws can be turned arbitrarily on this one. Add in vendor exclusive contracts with content providers, the fact that we need to have vendors in the chain in the first place rather than direct library purchasing — it’s the lack of choice and competitiveness that kills here more than the subscription model.
Bummer that no one saw the parallels, though. I didn’t go into depth on them because I assumed the connection was obvious. Guess not.
Librarianship has always been about trade-offs among competing values within the profession. In a print environment the trade-off we find ourselves balancing most often seem to be between access and preservation. If we let everyone touch it, use it, take it away from the library, how can we keep it safe? Having worked in a couple kinds of libraries I can tell you this balancing happens very consciously leading to different kinds of print lending schemes depending on who we serve. Moreover, librarians and library leaders don’t seem troubled by the fact that we have to do the weighing, and we are adept at explaining to patrons the policies that flow from that balancing act.
In a digital environment it strikes me that there may be different values most at stake. For instance I work in a public library in a very liberal town and there is a lot of talk about balancing sharing against privacy and how that works with digital content. But that doesn’t mean we are uncomfortable making a trade-off. Only that at the front end of our community’s decision-making process it’s less clear where we’re going to end up. But we are no less conscious about the balancing we are doing. And as more options arise (yay Unglue.it!) and as we create new solutions, I believe we’ll be able to find our ways into the right balance for our patrons, whatever kind of library we serve.
So it doesn’t seem so hard or strange to me that we will be making trade-offs among our values. Of course that doesn’t mean as a profession we’ve been mindful that’s what we need to be doing…sometimes the histrionics get away from us. But if we focus on how the digital landscape just asks of us the same skills we already have from our print experience, it all seems so much more possible.
Thank you for highlighting the issue and helping to keep us on track.
Highlighting the access/preservation conflict in print materials — brilliant. I think it’s very helpful of you to point out that we have templates for how to handle, and communicate about, fundamental values conflicts.
I DO think that in the digital sphere somehow, to use your words, we stop being mindful in the face of the histrionics, which is of course why I did this talk in the first place…I’d love to hear you say more about how your library is doing the balancing act, how your print experience illuminates that, and how it guides the digital content choices you make. Well, really, I’d love to hear everyone say more about this :).
Thanks for watching!