November 2, 2009

Is Your Library’s Content in the Stream?

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July 12, 2009

Mobile Devices, Libraries, and Policy Panel

Panel at #ala2009
Jason Griffey, Eli Neiburger, Tom Peters, Bonnie Tijerina, Deborah Caldwell-Stone

Jason: Overview of the Mobile World

numbers (because this arena is very important for us)
4,100,000,000 number of mobile phone subscriptions in the world
over 60% of the people on earth have a mobile phone subscription service

in 50 different countries around the world, the number of cellphones per person exceeds 100%
(means more than one cellphone each)
not just places like Korea, but places like Gambia, wehre 1,000,000 people have access to a telephone, and only 50,000 of those are fixed landlines

90% of the world’s population will have access to a cell phone signal by the end of 2010

2,400,000,000 people using SMS (active users)
75% of the people who have data access on their phones

we’re not good at handling numbers, but 1,200,000 people use email, so twice as many using text messages

2.3 trillion text messages sent in 2008
20% growth curve over 2007

so we have hard numbers that show this is the single most popular way in which the world accesses data
SMS is the largest data access method of communication/access in the world

showed the Wired Smart Guide for smartphones – iPhone, G1, Pre, Storm

we do often think about people accessing our information on smartphones, but there’s also a multitude of other data access devices with different models from cell phones:

– Kindles, buy content with no monthly charges
– netbooks with cell radios built into them (get device free but pay monthly data charges)
– Verizon MiFi, projects a wifi field for you, acts as a router to the cell network for ubiquitous connectivity

most areas of the U.S. have some cell network access
what we have now is child’s play (kindergarten), but in 3-5 years will be Harvard
LTE (Long Term Evolution) – next generation
current network is fast enough for text, but not for video streaming
LTE promises the video streaming

with those kinds of things, we’ll see things we can’t even imagine right now
this is not science fiction; Rogers has promised this will be available in Canada by the end of 2010, AT&T in 2011

Honeywell Kitchen Computer for 1969, for sale by Neiman Marcus during the Christmas season
$10,000 and weighed 100 pounds, had to go to programming school for two weeks to learn how to make it work
didn’t sell a single one

in 1969, they had the capacity to build the device, but the best idea they had was to make it a kitchen recipe machine (“if it plus in, it must be an appliance” – Eli)

mobile devices are just now becoming robust enough to be transformative
the early vision for a device is rarely the way it actually transforms the world
Henry Ford: “if I’d asked them what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse”
someone has to flip the switch and change things, and we’re very close to that for mobile devices

Clay Shirky – “the tools don’t get socially interesting until the tools get technically boring”
we’re right at that cusp

problems in the mobile world:
(bike that only rides on roads specially designed for it)
1. copyright
2. DRM

as we move from text into robust apps we can’t even envision yet, it’s important to enable these things, not prevent them

Tom: doesn’t want to underestimate the adoption of cell phones; can’t think of another man-made, manufactured device that’s been adopted by 60% of the world in a matter of months
surpassed toilets? are cell phones more recognizable than paper?
huge in the history of mankind


Question for Eli: when we talk about mobile devices, we mean digital content. is it a given we’re moving towards this licensing model for digital content, when libraries have traditionally purchased “things” and lending them under first sale doctrine? how do libraries maintain their rights under these threats of DMCA, etc.

Eli: this is really THE question for libraries in the 21st century; holding something of a copy that exists in 10,000 places in the world is worthless – that’s not the value; you have the whole world in your pocket
the rest of the world has skipped the 20th century and gone straight to the 21st; we no longer provide value by providing a copy of something that exists elsewhere
it’s what doesn’t exist anywhere else, which means creating it, which is usually letting your patrons create that
no longer bringing the world to your community, but bringing your community to the world and making it accessible
you’re (the library) the only one that cares about that content being out there
possible future where DRM triumphs & RIAA, etc. get everything they ever wanted and there’s no room for libraries
but could have an uprising against copyright and everything being free to everyone, although this is equally dangerous to libraries
will come down to digital ownership of rights
important not to forget that a major role of the library is to aggregate the buying power of the community and provide access
best thing we can do is produce and assist in the creation of new knowledge
don’t want to get involved in the DRM nightmare and find a value proposition that is meaningful to users in the networked 21st century

Bonnie: agrees and thinks that’s where we’re going, but still have issues now about what we’re licensing and getting
libraries are known as being stewards; need to be thinking now about issues of providing access to content
agrees the future is more about making our collections and knowledge more accessible

Tom: who’s going to take on stewardship in perpetuity? a trust organization?

Question for Bonnie: libraries want to accommodate user expectations for mobile devices, how does the “mobile” change the traditional library service model?

Bonnie: are mobile technologies really changing the core and the values of what libraries provide?
when I think of our service models, it’s providing information they need when they need it where they need it
could be answering a question or access to a special collection
the “when” and “where” can now expand, but our core library service model changing as much as the tools we’re using can just expand those services beyond where we’ve done that before
need a willingness to experiment, even with tight budgets (which are the perfect opportunity to do this)
need a willingness to do more collaborative work, which is getting easier
need to talk to the users more and assess their needs

Jason: one of the things he’s been thinking about lately regarding services and mobility (and the new web) is that a lot of our info flow and communication is moving to a real-time communication river
we wish they used libraries in this way, using human filters in real-time
thinking about “proactive reference” – especially for localized situations
we’re going to need to be putting ourselves in that flow
pulling questions out of that flow and answering them, not waiting for them to come to us
they’re getting answers from peers, so we need to insert ourselves in as experts and guide that flow
this could be a real growth area for libraries

Question for Tom: with future, pervasive networking, how will library services change and what are the implications for privacy and bandwidth-planning?

Tom: he manages a downloadable ebook library project, so he looks at it through that lens
your access depends on your network connection
how do you get it to your ears?
the future is streaming media, not downloadable
already have “Tumble Talking Books,” which is a streaming audio service that has expanded beyond kids
storage costs? although approaching zero and can keep everything
big issue is battery life, which hasn’t really improved much
it’s the achilles heel in this scenario
he assumes bandwidth will be there when he needs it, although his options at home are limited; this will change
we’ve thought about information as physical objects (books, copies, holding something)
as we get more into streaming media, our thinking will change to information experience
we’ve always talked about a “good read” – it’s a mix between the object and the experience, but the experience will take on a much bigger role
eg, there are some really interesting information experiences in the virtual world, such as books you walk into, contribute to just by experiencing it
libraries haven’t had a good way to measure usage, so we use surrogate measures (walked in the library, but don’t know what they did there – doesn’t mean they “used” the library)
in a world of streaming media, you could say they only streamed “war and peace” for five minutes, which means they probably didn’t read the whole thing
will get closer to knowing how they use these resources, which raises privacy issues

Question to Deborah: when have granular data collection and partner more with third-party content owners, have scenarios like Google Books knowing which page you’re on; a few services have more protections than libraries; how can libraries evolve in this space and work with these vendors?

Deborah: the first thing libraries have to keep in the forefront is giving users the choice of how their data is handled, which means giving them full information, which means the library has to do due diligence on these issues
if you have to expose some kind of ID to get access to this information, how is that handled?
have to address who owns the personally-identifiable information that gets transmitted? it should be the library
insist on the highest level
in an ideal world, it would be one-time use and then the data is discarded
good policy says you only keep it for as long as you need it and then you discard it
make sure the third party isn’t mining that data
on the larger level, need to discuss what privacy means in the first place
we’re stewards for our users; we can’t assume permission where it’s not given
it’s fine for an individual to decide to expose information, but they have to know enough information to make an informed decision
if I don’t want to use streaming media, can I get a download?

Tom: InfoQuest project is going to offer 24/7 SMS text reference and the issue of privacy has come up
user will text them a question that comes in through Google, and the librarians can see the cell phone number
have two outside entities involved – Altarama and Google
as soon as they answer the question, they’ll delete the email
for info purposes, they’ll save the questions in the backend without personal data

Deborah: sometimes, we shouldn’t do something just because we can

Bonnie: in an environment where people are choosing their level of privacy, and some are allowing more than others, a better role for libraries might be educating users about what they’re giving up
privacy is not dead, but that decisions about privacy have gone into the hands of the user more than ever before
is our role then to help provide information to let them know what info they’re giving up instead of not providing access to these services that have risks?

Deborah: opt-in is the way to go; respect user choices

Eli: it goes even further than that, because there is no way to assure your patron’s data if you enter into a relationship with a vendor
the more that you do in-house, the better
most services will let you authenticate in-house and then pass the user to the vendor anonymously
if you’re using google analytics, you’re piping every hit through google, and they haven’t really been tested
the work of the 21st century for libraries is to make these resources owned and developed by the library, not making contracts for $20,000 to do something you could do in-house
we’re addicted to vendors
there are a lot of products on the exhibit floor that could be done by a good programmer in-house in two weeks, and privacy is a big motivator to do this

Question for Jason: DRM has been vilified, but some point out that DRM on digital library content is more aligned with the traditional model of library service; what are the drawbacks for users?

Jason: treating digital like physical is insanity of the highest order, and the fact that we’re still using that model is ridiculous
the music industry was the first to be utterly destroyed and rebuilt (Napster –> iTunes, which is now DRM free)
if the other industries don’t see this and change their paths, they’ll just have to be destroyed and rebuilt
this feeds into something else about content that we’re not paying enough attention to, that libraries subsidize the purchasing of the information and distribute it for free
digital drives everything to free – as storage and processing becomes cheaper and everything goes digital, the price point moves to free
you’ll pay for advertising, but the cost for obtaining that content is driving down to zero
the other thing we’re competing with, besides cost coming down to zero, is piracy
if it’s easier to get a pirated copy of a book they can do whatever they want with, they’ll do that
can’t compete with free, so need to compete with easy; need to be easier than piracy
iTunes became #1 music store in the country was not because it was DRM-free, but because it was easy
we don’t even allow sharing digital content between ourselves, let alone our patrons
he could go online now and get any NYT bestseller in 30-40 seconds
mobile devices accelerate that, as do peer-to-peer networks
DRM will destroy libraries if we allow it, and it will be very difficult for us to overcome in the next 3-5 years

Tom: completely agrees
digital networks allow you to make an unlimited number of perfect copies at the speed of light for a fraction of the cost
we’re working through the economic and legal ramifications of that fact
can’t deny this forever
we’ve hitched the notion of intellectual property to the wrong horse, the making of copies
made sense when it was hard to make copies, but now it’s easy (brainless)
need to rebuild intellectual property from the ground up so that it’s not about slapping people on the wrist

Eli: right now the copyright landscape is driven more by copyright holders’ fear
iTunes bridged the users and the copyright holders
the horse is still with us, but he’s still in the backseat, riding along with us because we’re bringing him with us
when you think about the people in charge at major labels right now, there’s a finite supply of them
the kids who went crazy with Napster will have a very different way of looking at the business model
research shows that giving stuff away for free drives sales
there are producers making more money giving content away than they did selling it
part of the problem with the Kindle is that they’re still charging hardcover book prices – imagine if the price of a book was $1 – no one is comfortable with that model yet

Question for the panel: there are obvious policy considerations – accessibility, special user groups; how can libraries continue to advocate for these users in a mobile environments?

Tom: thinks we need a reader bill of rights for the digital era
give the reader the right to choose the font, color, font size, etc., but it’s the readers right, not anyone else’s
the ability to turn any etext into a text-to-speech should be an inalienable right
blind & visually-handicapped users are tearing their hair out about the Amazon turning off TTS on the Kindle because of the author/publisher lobby because removed thousands of titles from their grasp
* this is an area where ALA could help

Jason: is going to take the opposite tact
it’s not Amazon that turns off the TTS – it’s the publishers at the book level (doesn’t like that Amazon gave that ability, but the publishers are making this a problem for these blind users)
collectively, we could make a statement by aggregating our buying power since we spend *thousands* of dollars with publishers every day
could organize an effort

Eli: at the same time, there are publishers who would say “fantastic, the library won’t be purchasing our content anymore”
OverDrive is a good example – not offer it because of some high falutin’ concept?
exert the pressure on vendors – we would pay more if you’d open this up – show them the value of opening up the content
there are market opportunities to get around these issues in many of the areas where libraries work with others on standards
iTunes made it okay by showing people would pay more for open content

Tom: libraries are a fraction of the buyers in the print book market, but we’re a much larger share in the audio market (30%)
we do have more clout there

Question from the audience: asked about the “sixth sense” device shown off by MIT
a mobile computing device with a camera that is smart enough to recognize objects and layer information over it – “augmented reality”
potential to attach reviews to books
displays the Amazon rating right on the book and whether you can get it somewhere else cheaper (whether your library has it)

Jason: there are a few different projects experimenting with augmented reality on the new iPhone
interesting one that overlays historical information over buildings
in general, libraries are the entities that have that information

Tom: a low-tech way to do that now is with QR Codes

Eli: what’s interesting about the sixth sense project is that it’s a transitory project
it’s for visitors, not those who live in the 21st century
in the future, it won’t be about decoding the objects
read Vernor Vinge’s “Rainbow’s End” about wearable computers and libraries
one of the first uses of the telephone was supposed to be piping music into peoples’ homes
someday, the Kindle will look like a joke – it’s important right now, but it’s just a step on the journey

Question from audience: what kinds of questions should we be asking about format? if we try to make our information accessible for special populations, will that meet our mobile needs?

Tom: accessibility benefits everyone
it’s very sad that most portable devices are operated by buttons, and somewhere along the line, buttons got turned over to marketers, not engineers – they’re not accessible anymore and they’re designed for the young
this is madness – our portable devices should be accessible to everyone
it’s a tragedy

Eli: the emergence of web standards is the best thing that ever happened to the accessibility community
if you’re stuff is standards-compliant, it will be accessible
the term “mobile web” is a transitive one, because what you have in your pocket is “the web”
it won’t be about special interfaces
text has become electronic, which has completely helped them
the economics of Braille don’t work, but the right platform and technology makes everything accessible
most of the accommodations necessary are in the standards

Jason: agrees
part of the problem is that we don’t have a standard ebook format
epub is the closest we have (behind HTML, which the publishers aren’t using)
as long as we stick with a standard, you can move from device to device (that’s why MP3 works so well)
haven’t gotten there with video yet
HTML 5 is falling apart because of video codec arguments
stick with known, published standards, which make accessibility easier

Eli: the industrial revolution truly began when people could make standard parts that worked together
the same thing is starting to happen with information
those who are succeeding are doing so because they’re embracing open standards
wouldn’t want a car you can only put one type of tire on

Question from audience: is Creative Commons licensing the way things are going?

Jason: thinks CC is a very important starting point, especially for library-created content
need to allow for sharing
there’s still a lot of work to be done with copyright law
we’re done with copyright law in a way that’s great for the 20th century

Eli: CC is the best hope and compromise we have right now
any legal team is going to say it makes them uncomfortable, but they should be able to live with it
sees libraries putting copyright on content they’ve digitized that was previously in the public domain
hopefully someday we won’t need it though

Bonnie: agrees, it’s a stepping stone

Eli: part of the challenge is that you still see a lot of creators, especially hobbyists, who look at copyright as the thing that will make them rich
most people receive very small amounts of money from copyright
it’s more how your ideas live, not wither on the vine

Jason: the challenge to creators in the 21st century isn’t piracy, it’s people not having any idea who the hell you are
CC gives people the chance to find out who you are and give you money
libraries should be using CC

Bonnie: works with a lot of scientists, scholars, etc. and talks to them about CC in terms of permissions they don’t get from others so that they’ll use it to make it easier for others

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