a 2.0 story that doesn’t really involve libraries but does involve saving $12 and a car trip

One of the things I tell people in my 2.0 talks is that the digital divide is becoming about much more than people who have computers/email/web sites and people who don’t. The difference, to me, is people who have folded the web into their day to day lives and those who haven’t. This matters for a few reasons. As I have said before, I think it’s anyone’s personal choice whether they want to use a computer recreationally or not. However as more and more of our government’s services are available either primarily or most easily online, being able to at least navigate the online world becomes important, if not mission critical.

I’ve often thought that I should do a program on “The life of a 2.0-pian” (pretty sure I’ve seen that before) where I outline the many ways in which being able to use the web as another resource makes my life simpler, easier and saves me money. Here is the example that came to mind this week. As some background, when I worked at a public library of medium size, when we needed supplies we had two main choices, possibly three. 1) buy the supply from the Big Catalog 2) send the systems librarian out to Staples to buy the item 3) get the supply ourselves on the way to work (on our own time) and get reimbursed. While I am not one of those “My tax dollars at work!” people, I have to note that this process was rarely cost- or time-efficient for anyone involved except, sometimes, the accountant.

In any case, I was printing out holiday cards this week — I have a group of online friends who swap cards every year, I do not normally do a holiday card thing — and ran out of printer ink. As you know, printer ink is one of those notoriously overpriced items and if it’s something you buy often it’s best to have an angle. The ink I need at Staples is $20. At my local office supply store it is $27. My angle is a price comparison site called dealink.com which lets me search competing ink prices. They told me I could get it for $18.50 shipped, HP brand ink, no knock-offs. That was pretty good. Then I headed over to my favorite coupon site, RetailMeNot to see if they had any online coupons for DataBazaar which had the lowest ink prices. They did. I hope you are noticing that I can link to all these things. I can’t link to the ink page at Staples.com. So, I got an extra $5 off if I bought three (I needed a few anyhow) making my total $48.85, delivered to my door, for three ink cartridges for my photo printer.

So, the reason this matters and why I’m putting this on a libraran-oriented blog is that first, we tend to not buy things this way where I am, in libraries or elsewhere. Getting to Staples from my house takes at least 90 minutes round trip and $5 worth of gasoline and yet we still sometimes act like buying things online is somehow risky or uncharted territory. What’s risky for me is getting on the highway this time of year, to say nothing about the time I’d have to take off from work when there’s work do be done. Second, this is the type of efficency that 2.0 stuff gets us. A computer can compare prices. A computer can stockpile and share coupons. A computer can show me a photo of an item so I can see if it’s the one I want. Letting the computer do these parts of the shopping-for-supplies experience that is one of the less fun parts of librarianship leaves our bodies and big old brains free for doing what a computer can’t do like helping someone navigate their first email account, or doing a storytime puppet show, or having a book group discussion or forgiving someone’s library fines because it’s the holidays or making a book display about the Solstice.

Working on the web isn’t just about collecting real and/or imaginary friends and new interactive ways of sharing photos of your cat, it’s also about saving real time and real money so that you can do real things in your offline world. That’s my twopointopia report, over and out.

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