Monday, April 23, 2012

Going Digital Without Getting Dizzy

I spent the weekend at the Missouri Writer's Guild Conference and had a wonderful time. As both Library Support Staff and an emerging writer, I've followed the rise of digital books with equal measures of interest and unease.

One session of the conference I enjoyed was Jane Friedman's on the impact of Google, FaceBook, Amazon and Apple on a writer's career. It's important to remember that whatever happens to writers will eventually affect a library. Digital lending (and its pricing) is a hot topic between libraries and publishers right now. The rise of e-readers (Kindle and Nook) and Tablets (iPad and Android offerings) is pushing demand for digital materials to own or rent.

Jane said one thing that surprised me. Apparently, pundits are divided on whether tablets are here to stay. Looking at tech use here on the HHS campus, tablets are the least owned personal devices our students have. The iPads are popular at lunch and get used everyday, but few kids own one. I see e-readers now and then, but the number one device students own is a smartphone, followed by a laptop. Reading on either of those devices, while possible, isn't always desirable. In my own life, I rarely use my iPad, I prefer a real book or my laptop for long projects.

What does this all have to do with us in the Media Center? Will the district ever go digital?

Public libraries will always adopt new technologies before school libraries, their infrastructure is better designed for change and so are their patrons. Patron demand weights heavily on planning and implementing new policies. At this point in time, we aren't seeing a heavy demand for digital books from students. Until tablets or e-readers are as commonly owned as a mobile phone or home computers I don't expect that to change. Our resources are best used acquiring new fiction and updating systems and software the kids use here in the Media Center.

It often feels like the digital revolution is moving so fast it's hard to keep up. Yes and no. It is here, it will stay, but the speed at which you adopt to it is yours to set. In many ways it's never been a better time to be a writer and a reader. Some things to keep in mind-

1- The more options authors have for releasing material, the more choices (often at lower price points) readers have.
2- Most platforms support digital lending or downloads to every device on the market, which also keeps choice and pricing options in the hands of consumers.
3- Device options keep getting better.
4- Support for your devices is strong. Most public libraries offer free classes on digital lending.
5- Pick your pace. I started with a Kindle app on my iPhone and have graduated to both Nook and Kindle apps on my iPad. You don't necessarily have purchase a new device to try e-books.
6- We're watching! Here in the LMC, we're following all the trends and information and deciding how best to keep up, run from or adopt the latest services or devices that help our students. Feel free to ask us questions.
7- Print books will be around for a long time. There will be fewer to buy, but the medium will not become extinct.

I'm curious to know what devices you use. Have you bought something new in the last six months? Thinking about a change? Let me know about it!

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