how to destroy the book

I’m still sort of annoyed at Amazon’s self-serving press release about more ebooks being sold for the Kindle on Christmas Day than “real” books. I feel a few things

1. they’re creating a distinction that isn’t necessary, between ebooks and paper books
2. at the same time they’re obscuring the very very real distinction that exists and is terribly important: you do not own an ebook, you license or lease it

Plus I just plain old don’t believe it. I mean maybe it’s true for the narrowly sliced timeframe they’ve outlined but really? This isn’t a trend, it’s a blip. Want me to think otherwise? Release some actual numbers. Amazon makes more money off of ebooks than paper books. They’d like to keep doing that. So.

I’ve been meaning to link to this talk for a while, a transcribed talk that Cory Doctorow gave at the National Reading Summit in November. The title of his talk was How to Destroy the Book. I think you’ll enjoy it.

[T]he most important part of the experience of a book is knowing that it can be owned. That it can be inherited by your children, that it can come from your parents. That libraries can archive it, they can lend it, that patrons can borrow it. That the magazines that you subscribe to can remain in a mouldering pile of National Geographics in someone’s attic so you can discover it on a rainy day—and that they don’t disappear the minute you stop subscribing to it. It’s a very odd kind of subscription that takes your magazines away when you’re done [as is the case with most institutional subscriptions with Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of medical and scientific journals].

Having your books there like an old friend, following you from house to house for all the days and long nights of your life: this is the invaluable asset that is in publishing’s hands today. But for some reason publishing has set out to convince readers that they have no business reading their books as property—that they shouldn’t get attached to them. The worst part of this is that they may in fact succeed.

little pieces of things that might interest you

A few links that have been keeping me from inbox zero for the past few weeks.

  • “…the increased popularity of the Internet in America has not been correlated with an overall increase in reported sexual offenses; overall sexual offenses against children have gone steadily down in the last 18 years” Note: this does not say “oh the internet is safe!” It just says that the internet getting more popular doesn’t correlate with sexual offenses against children. More from the Research Advisory Board of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force
  • Speaking of Berkman people, I’ll be hanging out in the Boston area over the turkey weekend and likely going to this event that Saturday. Anyone in the area should consider going, it looks like fun.
  • Evergreen is gaining traction as an ILS that works even for big/complicated systems. The Traverse Area just went live with their Evergreen implementation. Doesn’t that look nice? More about Michigan’s open source ILS project.
  • I’ve been reading more lately. I read Cory Doctorow’s book Content (my review) and think it should be required reading for librarians or anyone else in the various digital content industries. If you’d like a copy, you can read it for free online, or if you’re a librarian or a teacher, you can request a donated copy from the website. I already gave mine away.
  • FCC broadband bill passed. This might help Farmer Bob [my generic term for the people over on this side of the digital divide] get broadband.
  • Pew Report “When Technology Fails” (and even really great technology sometimes does). The results will likely not surprise the librarians. “15% of tech users were unable to fix their devices” and “48% felt discouraged with the amount of effort needed to fix the problem.”

the thing about privacy

Now that I’ve gotten back from ALA and gotten some sleep, I’ve been ruminating over privacy topics some more. The panel went well. I also read Cory Doctorow’s book Little Brother on the way home — they were giving away copies at the panel — and enjoyed it quite a lot. It’s a YA just-barely-dystopian book about a terrorist-seeming event and the Bay Area lockdown that follows and how a group of tech savvy teens respond, and how others respond. It’s a good book.

During the panel, we were talking about things you’d want to keep private that you don’t necessarily need to keep secret. Sex and bathroom activities were two obvious examples. This then led to a discussion, more like hitting on a few points, about library records and how there is a difference between trashing them — so you can legitimately say “we don’t have any records to show you” — and obscuring them, say through encryption, so that the records are available to, say, patrons and yet not to librarians or, it follows, to law enforcement. I found this idea intriguing. Now that we’ve done a decent job making the point that patron library data is data that we protect, maybe we can make that protection more sophisticated so we don’t have to protect it by completely eradicating it. Maybe.

Anyhow, I got grabbed outside of the panel by Library Journal and I talked a little bit about this.

Also can I just say that Library Journal’s coverage of ALA was really engaging and worth reading this year? I haven’t been following ALA conferences in a while but I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading about this one in addition to attending it.

Privacy Revolution – not quite live-blogging

I enjoyed the panel presentation. Jenny Levine and Kate Sheehan were both there blogging along with me. It was fun to keep an eye on twitter/chat/email and still pay enough attention to manage to ask a few questions and just learn things. Here is a slightly edited version of what I was writing during the event. My apologies of the lateness of this post. As I was heading home my own local library where I am a sometimes employee was dealing with their own privacy and law enforcement issue. Tough stuff. Click through for details, didn’t want to put this all on the front page. (more…)

Blogging the ALA Privacy Panel

I was invited to be a blogger for the Privacy: Is it Time for a Revolution? panel happening this Sunday from 1:30-3:00 in room 201D at the convention center. Speakers will be Cory Doctorow, Dan Roth from Wired, and Beth Givens, the director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. This is supposed to be a “debate” but I really sort of think it’s mostly going to be a discussion of the erosion of the idea of privacy and what librarians are or should be doing about it. I’m looking forward to hearing it all three of these speakers have years (decades?) of experience and sharp minds. Cory I know is an engaging and at times provocative speaker.

I’m assuming they got some grant money for this, because I got a very slick looking concept paper about the idea with a lot of good backgrounder information (email me if you’d like me to send you a copy) and they ponied up money for a domain: PrivacyRevolution.org. Unfortunately, the domain has been parked at GoDaddy until pretty much today, so my blogging about it is going to be minimal since I’m getting on a plane in 12 hours and will have minimal net access until sometime Friday. There is a survey there that I encourage you to take.

You can also follow their twitter stream and they will be following the Librarian Society of the World Meebo chatroom. I’ve offered to pose some questions to the panelists from people who can’t be there [i.e. you, dear readers] though I’m a little worried this is late in the game for anyone heading to ALA. In any case, if there is a privacy-and-librarians topic that you are dying to ask a question about to these panelists, please put it in the comments here and I’ll be happy to do my best. Jenny Levine is the other guest blogger so stay tuned here and there for more information about this as it comes in.