Monday, March 09, 2009

A couple ideas

1. Get Amazon to allow for "community Kindles" & their distribution through libraries. It doesn't make sense that I personally can own a Kindle, download content & then let others borrow my device with said content on it and yet public libraries are not allowed to loan out Kindles with content on it. I predict the Kindle will be a dismal failure if Amazon doesn't become more open. Folks like me will never pay $400 for a device that locks me into one function with one provider. On the other hand, it's possible that if Amazon would allow for community Kindles, people would become so used to the technology that they would themselves buy the devices.

2. re: the newspaper crisis, which is so similar to the crisis in libraries... With the disintermediation of the web these days, people are both seeking and creating information online themselves. Those of us overly tied to the old printed format for information and old production methods are becoming obsolete. Still, a free democracy requires an educated citizenry. Information has to be free. This is why public libraries are so important to our civic lives & why they are largely supported by public funding. Newspapers, on the other hand, have traditionally been a commercial enterprise supported by advertising (primarily) and subscriptions (to a lesser degree, though the readership sets the advertising rates). But both readers & advertisers now have free (or cheaper) alternatives online and traditionally-run newspapers are unable to compete. But we still need high-quality, locally generated news. We still need the product that reporters and editors provide.
On this morning's "Where We Live" (a program aired on WNPR, National Public Radio) they talked about "The Vanishing Capitol Press Corps". In this program, a couple of excellent reporters who used to cover Connecticut's legislature, government, and area politics and have recently been laid off from their newspapers spoke about the problems with the newspaper business in this day and age. The real issue seems to be - how do we support the kind of hard-hitting, unbiased, local reporting that we need in order to be well-informed participants in our democracy?
I began to think about the library's role in newspapers. (Heck, I started in library computer systems by working in a newspaper's news library as they converted from a clip file system to a database, so I know a bit about the important relationship that news reporters have with librarians.) I began to think - wouldn't it be great if libraries became a mechanism for supporting local reporters?
We could put together a community portal in which the reporters published regularly and people responded to the things that were published in real-time (yes, I know traditional newspapers have finally entered into the blogosphere, but I'm thinking that newspapers have let so many good people go due to their corporate structure that we'll need alternative news venues). The point would be to sponsor journalism with no strings attached. Libraries could support information creation. The libraries who supported news creation could also support it at the research level, of course, providing the reference materials needed by reporters. Conceivably, the library could keep databases archiving said community-level reporting & maybe even help defray costs by selling subscriptions to the archives. Now that I think about it, a side benefit would be to bypass the Proquests of the world by engaging in such an effort. Just a thought. I know, a wild thought, but figured it would be worth throwing out there - why not?

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