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If you're providing laptop access to the WWW you don't need a physical space like a library to do it, so I don't get the space utilisation argument at all.  They appear to be spending more money on providing coffee than technology in any case, so is the real agenda to provide a recreational area for rich kids?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Sep 4th, 2009 at 09:12:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
a recreational area for rich kids
Isn't that what prep schools and private universities are?

See Krugman's futuristic writing looking back to 1996 from the end of the 21st century: Krugman and the end of the Industrial State

The famous universities mostly did manage to cope, but only by changing their character and reverting to an older role. Today a place like Harvard is, as it was in the 19th century, more of a social institution than a scholarly one -- a place for the children of the wealthy to refine their social graces and make friends with others of the same class.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 4th, 2009 at 09:21:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course there is a limitation of physical space:

A library without the books - The Boston Globe

And to replace those old pulpy devices that have transmitted information since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s, they have spent $10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by Amazon.com and Sony. Administrators plan to distribute the readers, which they're stocking with digital material, to students looking to spend more time with literature.

A library without the books - The Boston Globe

He said the move raises at least two concerns: Many of the books on electronic readers and the Internet aren't free and it may become more difficult for students to happen on books with the serendipity made possible by physical browsing. There's also the question of the durability of electronic readers.

"Unless every student has a Kindle and an unlimited budget, I don't see how that need is going to be met,'' Fiels said. "Books are not a waste of space, and they won't be until a digital book can tolerate as much sand, survive a coffee spill, and have unlimited power. When that happens, there will be next to no difference between that and a book.''

You can not allowed to wander off with those expensive electronic readers and you can not very well be allowed to copy the material to your personal reader in case you might copy it further. Intellectual property, you know.

And thus the versatile, easily copied books are replaced by digital scrolls to be kept under lock and key.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Sep 4th, 2009 at 10:20:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Books are already kept under lock and key.

Access to journals is many journals is rationed to universities. If you're lucky you can find an ATHENS password somewhere, but otherwise if you're not an academic you can forget about reading JSTOR or anything else you can't buy at Borders.

Access to books that are out of print is also rationed to universities. If I want a copy of something scholarly that wasn't published recently, I have to go find a friendly local university and hope that they operate an open access scheme for outsiders.

This is likely to cost me money, and there's a reasonable chance I'm going to need to be formally ID'd by someone reputable, like a lawyer. (sic.)

Electronic readers are a stupid idea, and I don't think they're likely to last. I'd guess tablet PCs are going to get slimmer and lighter, and eventually they'll replace both paper and dedicated readers.

And it's not as if books actually last all that long. If you print on parchment or acid free paper you can expect a reasonable shelf-life, but most modern paperbacks use cheap paper stock. I have books from twenty years ago that are already very fragile and impossible to read without damage.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Sep 4th, 2009 at 08:45:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At my alma mater as a lowly first year student I could:
  • browse the open collections which included recent journals, reference books and the recent phd thesises. (Actually this is accesible to the general public as no student card was required)
  • from the library catalogue order out any book or journal in the library (student card required). And for a reasonable fee make as many copies as I liked.
  • borrow and bring home any book printed after a certain year.

The accessability is worse when the library chooses to buy electronic books instead.

As a non-student I am limited to the pretty vast collective collections of the local libraries that can order any book from each other with a few days wait. So if any local library has it I can borrow it. Or I could just enroll in another university course. (Did I mention education is free in Sweden?).

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Sep 5th, 2009 at 10:57:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Accessibility is only worse if the implementation is poor. We didn't have literal fights over books on my course, but the library typically had one (1) copy of every book. If you needed that copy you either had to be first in line, you had to wait, or you had to do without.

It's not hard to see how electronic copies would improve on that. With Google Books - or some variant - all you need is a browser. Once you have an electronic copy, you have an infinite number of electronic copies.

Aside from politics and lack of imagination, there's no reason why there shouldn't be exactly one library in the world, with local mirrors.

An online library that offered instant access to copies of everything ever published, without exception, would be a hugely useful thing. And the technology to do this is already available now.

There are also curatorial advantages. You can leave valuable folios in climate controlled storage while still giving readers open access to the words and images in them.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Sep 5th, 2009 at 11:10:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, but that is not what is being implemented at the libraries I know of. And it is down to politics, more specifically the politics of copyright.

Regarding journals Open Access is slowly but steadfastly winning ground in different academic institutions. So there we might see access through bypassing the established gate-keepers.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Sep 5th, 2009 at 12:33:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A swedish kind of death:
Of course, but that is not what is being implemented at the libraries I know of.

I'm sure it isn't, but I think it's inevitable in the medium term. It's not actually possible to secure electronic data in any useful way. Any protection scheme can be cracked or circumvented. For example it's not hard to find fairly obscure CDs that used to live in library collections available online in torrents.

In the same way that iTunes stopped using DRM after a few years, I think it's inevitable that the current fad for Kindles and whatevers is going to die within a year or three.

Combine that with Open Access, and you have - open access.

What's missing is automatic torrenting. Currently to share a torrent you have to decide - manually - that you are going to put it online, or continue to seed after you've downloaded it. This makes it your torrent. Which is not entirely a good thing.

Within the next few years someone is going to realise that torrents can be cloudified. Everyone will seed slices of random anonymised files that could contain any content by anybody. The original uploader will remain anonymous.

Once that happens, torrents will start to remain available for perpetuity. People will start putting cloud torrent servers online. The copyright police won't be able to do anything, short of breaking down doors, because uploading, seeding and downloading will be completely anonymous.

Not long after that, someone else will realise that this really is a viable model for a world library.

This will transform publishing into something very different. This won't be an easy thing and may not be an entirely good one. But I think it's inevitable now.

It may also transform universities. Currently a large part of the rationale for universities is that people go where the books are.

If the books are everywhere, that's going to need a rethink.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Sep 5th, 2009 at 06:43:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure if this is exactly what you meant, but about 10 years ago now, my brother put one of my unpublished papers online.  I can't even remember how he did it exactly.  I don't know where it "lives" online, but apparently it is still one of the first things that comes up when my name is googled, or so I have been told.  That seems like in perpetuity to me.
by jjellin on Sun Sep 6th, 2009 at 08:45:21 PM EST
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