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information, design, architecture; information design + architecture

Recession-boyed Libraries Find New Bubble to Invest In

Turns out it’s poor people!

According to Alison Flood, libraries have elected to stop making all those “it’s the foot-fall”, “we’re community hubs” and even “free internet!” noises as soon as loan figures look like they’re on the up.

Why are they going up? The same reason anything happens these days: because everyone is fiscally boned. Do we expect people to stay fiscally boned? Not really, no. If we did, we’d have bigger problems to deal with. As it is, rising food prices make throwing a couple of books on top look unappealing, and the pretend value of three-for-twos is probably going to convince less for the next few years, but in everyone else’s good times, libraries found that the cheapest best-sellers in the land were the most inconvenient, and keeping Richard & Judy’s Book Club display shelving well-stocked once month just meant more stock to be sold the next, as well-marketed short-head items refused to grow that extra tail.

Now is a good time for companies to be getting out of mutually-destructive competitions and finding sexy new forms of growth, and it’s going to work out really badly for libraries if now they want to get back in on it.

As long as everyone continues to not work out how to monetise anything other than an author’s linear character strings, we’re going to continue fighting over the right to distribute them in their audience’s chosen media, and libraries are do much better follow a route like Aaron Schmidt, Dave Pattern and JISC’s TILE (see David Jennings on their recent “Sitting on a Goldmine” event), using their inherent librariness to add a side or two to basic book meat.

If this is what good times looks for libraries, libraries are really shit.

(Props, of course, to The Onion.)


Filed under: Uncategorized, User experiences

It isn’t really a business, is it?

Paul Kedrosky believes we live in an “open information economy”, which we know because he says so right here. But if he’s right, Google Scholar doesn’t have “sucktitude”: it’s the obvious outcome of an information economy.

If you can get past the slapstick of a man pushing hard on the pull door (Click “All n. versions” for a cheeky PDF freebie…), what’s most interesting is that most people don’t even see the stuff there as being of economic value. If they aren’t reading it, then how are they going to act on it? If you aren’t acting, how are you making value? A genderless internet entity notebulb goes in to a kind of fugue state on this theft, blaming the Ivy League Library System, which is the roundaboutest name for publishers I’ve yet heard, and it’s such a long and torturous attack, and it’s so amazingly wrong, because why would anything think about charging for this stuff? That makes so little sense that scholars are reduced to toadying, insular Old Boys (Oxbridge, not Chan-wook), passing their precious secrets through their Ivory Tunnel Network under JSTOR’s subscription walls.

There’s a grain of truth in that (it’s a lot like where all that Just Sharing malarky would seem to end up), but it’s not really everything. Instead, the whole publishing industry is making it really obvious that it’s not only with the advent of digital products that sharing became better than owning, and it’s not, as according to Mary Harrington according to Anna Jay, everything on the internet is the opposite of print.

Most blog posts aren’t product themselves, but press releases for public speaking, or conference attendances, or address books, or even just more syndicated content, but most journal articles aren’t much more than variables to pour in to the dark algebra of other people’s attention.

So can we please stop calling it an information economy if no one can find a way to package information like a product?

(The post that made me think all this in the first place came via Mark Dahl.)

Filed under: Information use, scholarly communication, Uncategorized