Learning, the act of gaining knowledge, is a craft unto itself. It starts with questions - the what ifs, how abouts, whys, . . . leading from the unknown to the known, through inquiry, experimentation, travel, and of course pure accident.

This is about how it happens in my life.

Satisficing on Service

There has been much ado in Libraryland with regards to ebooks recently.  Over the 10 or so years that OverDrive has been working with Libraries to provide ebook content,  it is only in the past few years that we've seen significant movement in this area.  Portable ereaders only started to come of age in 09, many developed by the retailers themselves. This created the necessary momentum for further ebook development, and was a first step in changing the relationship between publishers, readers, retailers and Libraries. As Libraries started to lend readers as well as provide access to content, it seemed the universe was unfolding as it should.  More recently, the landscape has shifted yet again, with Amazon deciding to get into the lending through Libraries game, and Penguin deciding to get out of it as a result.

As I've been following the comments (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) and pondering all of this. I am starting to think that when it comes to lending popular fiction as ebooks, Libraries are fighting an un-winnable battle.

There are a few quite diverse reasons leading me in this direction:
  1. Economic: higher costs to Libraries with no ownership as compared with same title in print is a tough sell with tight budgets
  2. Economic: ereaders themselves are still not ubiquitous in the general population. I imagine those that have them were prepared to acquire content independent of Libraries.
  3. Functional: using an ereader while soaking in the tub can be problematic
  4. Behavioural:  people do not generally feel the need to keep the popular fiction they might purchase - used book stores are a testament to this.
    This means that for both the publisher and the reader-consumer, the ebook licensing model, if priced right, makes sense.  It means that from the publisher perspective, Libraries just may not be part of the fiction ebook landscape. 
Facilitating access to content is something Libraries do very well, regardless of format. They always have.  But it is always a balance.   For instance, my reading interests fall outside of the Toronto Public Library's scope a number of times every year or I can't take the materials out.  I'd be quite happy to forgo the money spent on fiction ebooks to so there could be a lending copy of  some of the 250 books on Librarianship that are reference only.

I'm no Luddite, but I am, I guess, a skeptic of high tech.  I am much enamoured of how it makes many things easier, including the simple act of recording one's words.   But the idea of lining up for hours or even over night in order to get the next new device strikes me as, well, ludicrous.  It reminds me of distracting a toddler with shiny keys while you continue putting groceries in the cart.

The term satisficing was coined in 1956 by Herbert Simon, a polisci/econ/psych/sociologist. It is about figuring out what is adequate verses optimal.   It is about understanding constraints, variables, relationships and desired outcomes.  I think it is a useful concept for Libraries and all of us in Libraryland to keep in mind as the ebook landscape is continually re-formed. 

No comments:

Post a Comment