At the Only Edge that Means Anything / How We Understand What We Do
by Dennis Brunning (E Humanities Development Librarian, Arizona State University) <[email protected]>
In Arizona we can’t close the border, but our Borders are closing — as they are closing, for good, all around the United States. There was even an Arizona-based 11th hour to buy the debt of this once ubiquitous bookstore and save 11,000 employees and 400 stores. How many loyal customers were left in the lurch?
What led to the demise? Too many stores, the economy, e-publishing, no paying customers. Surprising, since at just about any time until the doors closed, Borders had as many customers as any Macy’s, Dillards, or even Nordstrom’s grazing amid the shelves. Problem was — no one was buying anything.
Hmm, Borders always seemed busy; were customers just loitering?
Apparently. Until the doors closed, Borders was a clean, well-lit place to be for high schoolers, college kids, and parents — with everyone else who enjoyed the atmosphere of coffeehouse, New School of Social Research, and books to read but not buy. A clean, well-lit place with content more relevant than the local public library or the rarefied and abstract academic library.
You’ve got to ask — where will these people assemble now? Will they move over to Barnes and Noble or just hang out in Farmville?
Our academic library now has and will have even more amenities akin to Borders to attract and keep students within its lit space. You can order pizzas, drink lattes, talk on your Smartphone, ask questions, use Wi-Fi.
On a state budget, though, we are not clean or well-lit. The outsourced janitors do only so much and only so often. The cheap carpet is worn by traffic and spilled espresso. Furniture, unless bolted down, is rearranged to conform to improvised learning communities. We have all this because students don’t need the library anymore — the library as place. They claim and we listen that they don’t even need what we offer. We try to “bring ‘em back.”
Will it work? It didn’t for Borders because book publishing changed quickly, and it took more than ill-defined customer service to get books out the door and money in the pocket. Fortunately, we do not have such demanding goals, but we may have a problem of even grander scale — no money, no books, no staff, worn carpets, no budget to replace those lightbulbs. The fate of Borders should give pause to those of us who’ve retrofitted the library as a customer-centered place whose users don’t plunk down cash direct as a way of saying — “We want what you have, its value is our value.”
Oh, to those of you who like bookstores, here are some helpful shopping links:
Mobile Me: My iPhone
A third of us in the mobile era for libraries will use iPhones. They will be expensive, change every year, and there will be a constant tug from others — librarians and users — to pay attention to their choice of smartphones. We will be a nation divided between iPhone and Android users. This can only divert our attention, cost, and endanger the mojo.
Consistent with the user demographic, a third of librarians will use iPhones. We love our iPhones. We will love our iPhones. When will the love affair end? Believe it, the honeymoon has only begun. Cognitive dissonance theory dictates you will love what you’ve laid so much cash down on. You’ve become an iSheep, herded by Apple’s exquisite design and Steven Job’s mesmerizing marketing, to join the select set, in your walled garden of webly delights.
There is an app for everything, or so promised a television ad that aired everywhere and all the time last Christmas. With the debut of Apple’s iPad, the revolutionary tablet computer, those ads fell away to the “apps plus” attitude of the iPad. So now you’ve got an iPhone. You’re broke, but you have the key that unlocks doors — even car doors; yes, there is an app for that.
You should be all smiley smiles. The iPhone does everything that clunky Blackberry did, and the Web access — well, there is no comparison. The retinal display technology, which brings Apple computer display acuity to a small screen, makes one feel that what you have here is a good laptop on a tiny screen.
Of course, this is the Web doctored by apps. Apps have always been with us. They were the shortcuts, the macros — any programming that removed us from the engineering details and into “just doing.”
Apps are antibrowser. And following Steven Jobs, they are anti-Flash — that amazing moving images software pioneered and disseminated by Adobe. Flash is the lingua franca of the regular Web but plays as little as possible role in Steven Job’s apple orchard. For the moment, if you are an iPhone user you may well become an iPad user; because now you are part of the Apple family.
But you will no longer have a Kindle, Google Book, or Nook Bookstore link in your iPhone apps. Apple wants 30% from all sales linked from its iPhone and third party links by-pass this tollbooth.
Welcome to the Garden!
Annals of Search: Google Unfriends Us: Google Friends Canceled
Loyal librarians and loyal searches — we’ve been “unfriended.” On the heels of putting down Google Labs, Google has closed the email link to Google Friends. Google Friends began in 1998, while Sergey Brin, Google co-founder, was still at Stanford University. He wanted to regularly update stakeholders. The best method then was an email. It was folksy, informal — an irregulat serial. It continued for just over 13 years.
How did Google Friends get so unlucky? As explained in the last email sent today, that although Google Friends had a good run and served a purpose, since subscriptions had remained flat and had increased in social media like Twitter and Facebook.
Still, though, we have Librarian Central Blog and the Librarian’s Newsletter. But take a look at the activity there. Librarian Central took another summer break (the endless summer post) in 2008 and never returned. Last posts at the Blog were in 2009, and the last newsletter arrived by Gmail in 2008. Doesn’t bode well for these small products; it seems a bit “flat.”
What to make of this? Granted, an email newsletter seems so pre-social media. Friendship is, after all, mostly about whom and not what, right?
Despite everywhere, Google is nowhere when it comes to “knowing Google.” They are a private public company, guaranteed to announce or pronounce on their various blog sites or simply act in stealth. Increasingly, they just let their lawyers do the talking, and those forums aren’t for us.
Hey, wait a minute, we thought it was impossible to unfriend someone without many hoops. Oh, that’s Facebook. Facebook will never unfriend you, it’s in their DNA. Google, on the other hand, cuts, caps, and moves on.
Downloads from the Zeitgeist
Internet 2: still around, still around; we just don’t refer to it much. It’s moving along, at consortia pace, meeting, conferencing, spending…and rolling out big bandwidth over which intensive data will be crunched and munched into a fine new age of science. Now if we could just keep Google and others out and have it all to our scholarly selves.
Peter Coyote: the voice of Apple’s current “how forever changed” television ad campaign. The gifted and popular actor, who strikingly looks and sounds like Leonard Nimoy, sonorously vocalizes a perfect moment, as smooth and simple as any Apple product. The moment? The day the codex died. What hath Steven Job wrougth?
iPhone 5: the one coming, soon, which everyone will want. Remember George Carlin’s age routine? You’re proud to be four, you even count four-and-a-half. By sixty you just want to forget about it. When will Apple lose count?
Innovation: at Google, read buy, incorporate, and make money, especially those who sell young. Not a jobs program in the least…
Big Deal: from Trump through Italian cinema, a phrase that evokes triumph, grandeur, serious street cred. In Library Land — not so much. The librarian’s debt ceiling.
Google a Day: borrowing from prayer or thought or saying for the day, Google announces a little ready-reference service which delivers a Google byte of information every day. Who needs a Dilbert calendar now?
Lulu: at lulu.com, the leading self-publishing company, lulu means…watch, though, your Kindle, Nook, iBook purchasing, police your approval plans, lulu publications come in all formats, written by the guy-next-door (maybe).
Take back: ever more popular idea, an actionable goal of old media to get some sugar for all the cane — arrests, court decisions, enforceable in China — well, that’s a whole different IP thing. Ranchers and rustlers?
2 cents: what investment analysts figure is Amazon’s profit on each item across its millions of offerings. Everything is growth and volume, quick and efficient delivery, inventory and inventory management sort of “in the cloud.” Sustainable? Well, you know you aren’t going to buy a bespoke suit or Porsche, yet, on Amazon. But books, yeah. eBooks, oh, heck yeah!
Free market bully: what Apple or any other online company can be accused of, in spades, when they limit choice. Apple calls the shots.
Vote for Buddy Ryan: what you’ll want to do after watching this segment from the Colbert Report.
Kindle Store link in iPhone Kindle app: what you won’t have from now on.
Exposure: mot du choix among the Webinistas — discover servicers trotted all around the block by young librarian Webinistas as if seeing something is finding something. Waiting for Roy Tenant’s new version of librarians want to search, users want to find.
Google Cheerleaders: term not exactly coined by information industry consultant and writer Stephen E. Arnold — he writes about “Google cheerleading books” — but as there must be some actor behind the gerund, he must mean writers like John Battelle, Ken Auletta, and Jarvis, who’ve been given the golden ticket to explore Google’s version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate works. Stephan is neither cheerleader nor critique; he is a consultant. He writes with precision and depth about Google for the library information industry, so it is smart to catch glimpses of his high-priced research studies in the free versions of Information Today. Catch his take on changes at the top and Google + in a recent free read.
Network effects: concepts used to explain everything from how Facebook launches revolutions like the Arab spring and the short-lived green revolution in Iran to why we like kittens in mittens. A Website, possibly in response to Washington gridlock and bipartisanship politics, will let you vote on who can run for President. Social media, social revolution.
Aux armes les citoyens: becomes “follow us” on Twitter; cast your vote becomes “friend me” on Facebook. Network effects where the long march goes online…
Grandpa Box: Dilbert characterizes the desktop in generational terms; the laptop, “I’ll text the 90s.” Did your library just spend recession dollars on work areas for students with laptops? Your thinking may need bloomers.
Fix-it steps for Kindle iPhone app users…
See cartoon panel of August 3, 2011