Saturday, July 25, 2009


In spite of all the talk of physical bookstores being competed out of existence in the online age, there will, for the foreseeable future, be a need for a local physical location providing physical information and media.

If you really think about it, there are still all lot of people still alive who grew up in a world of books rather than of computers. Some people find computers intimidating. Remember, in their youth they had it pounded into their heads that computers could be touched (or even seen directly) ONLY by very smart, well-educated, adult, white males who had a job that allowed it. Some people like the portiblity of a book -- readable (during daylight hours) even when the power is out. And some just like the look and feel of books.

And there are times when a you don't want to order something and wait for it.

And then there's the serendipity effect of a place filled with the kind of random browsing not available by keyword searches or by the paths that software recommendations steer you in.

But stores are not about what all the people want; they're about what's most profitable and what a substantial subset of customers like (or are willing to put up with).

Enter the public library. They have books, newspapers, magazines, music CDs, movies. You can go in and browse and come away with whatever you're in the mood for right now -- not when it comes in the mail a week later. In many places, a library is within walking distance. In many others, it's a short drive.

And library materials are free.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

the always-on cyber-verse

Jacked into -- er-- turned on -- my web-enabled phone and pressed the e-mail button. Odd thing: I was already signed in, even tho' I distinctly remembered signing off on the computer. Ditto on the web browser of the phone. Looked for the "log out" link. Didn't see any. Maybe I just couldn't find it. There is a "log out" link on the mobile version of my social network, but it's tucked away in an odd spot at the bottom of the page. And it's easier just to stay logged in, anyway. All I need now is an avatar and a VR jack at the base of my skull.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the cutting edge and the long tail

One of the great strengths of a library is that, unencumbered by the restrictions of retail, it can provide the "long tail." While it's true that a library's shelf space is finite, the fact that it doesn't need to sell, and sell quickly, to stay alive means that it can keep a wider variety of materials and can serve groups that the mainstream (not to mention the popular or the elite) ignores or shuns, or just deems unprofitable -- the shy, bookish types, the elderly, the poor, and people who are interested in "weird" topics or viewpoints.