Should all public libraries be closed?

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elasto
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Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby elasto » Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:44 am UTC

Just throwing something a bit mad out there (or is it?)

Using the UK as an example: There are approximately 4,000 public libraries, costing about a billion pounds a year to maintain.

What if we closed them all down and instead we bought every household in the country an e-reader equipped with a prepaid SIM card for anywhere downloading of books?

There are about 26m households in the UK, so if each e-reader cost £50 that'd be about £1.3Bn - or about the cost of running the public library system for a year. And, heck, selling off those 4,000 buildings could easily raise that much capital anyhow.

Ok, so to discuss some of the complications:

> There are still 'running costs' - ie. reimbursing the copyright holders for loaning out the books and paying the monthly bandwidth costs
-- Not sure what proportion of the current £1Bn yearly costs that represents, but with no staffing costs or heating bills etc., one would hope that perhaps it'd cost 80% less than now. (E-books should cost far less than physical books anyhow - and the government could make that a law if it had to...)
-- Readers could theoretically make a contribution - let's say a small fee per month and per book - depending on whether we wanted this whole thing funded from central taxation or split with consumers.
-- The whole thing could be self-sufficient if we really wanted (or even make a profit!)

> The e-readers could get broken, lost, stolen or simply sold off
-- They could. Perhaps schools could have spare e-readers they allow children to use while on the premises for when a household fails to take care of theirs. And replacement e-readers could of course be bought by a household if it's genuinely lost. Perhaps the first replacement could be free also or something

> The SIM cards could be abused - hacked to download other things or to make calls
-- Seems to me that, in theory at least, the telecoms companies could block it at their end: Such SIM cards only being allowed to download books, with a fail-safe cutoff if a disproportionate amount of data is downloaded. Obviously that would up the initial funding cost though.

> Libraries don't just loan out books
-- Sure, and that's part of what I hope to explore here. I know they loan out music, but there seems little need for that in 2015 and free streaming services. Plus it's not of the same social and educational importance as reading. (Personally I wouldn't be averse to every household having publicly funded broadband too, but I don't want to muddle this thread too much :D )
-- They also provide some kind of community focal point, put on education classes, allow people to go online for free etc. But it seems to me other bodies could take this aspect on.

---

Terrible idea or worth exploring?

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Dec 09, 2015 12:42 pm UTC

elasto wrote:-- They also provide some kind of community focal point, put on education classes, allow people to go online for free etc. But it seems to me other bodies could take this aspect on.

To my mind, we need more of these things, and libraries are in a prime position to take more of them on. Those are the kinds of things that I'd rather see libraries expand on, as opposed to simply increasing their collections - including collections of e-books.

This is a somewhat US-centric picture of libraries I'm sure, but for a lot of people in low income or education brackets, this is where those people go to get online, learn the basics of using computers, get free tech support for handling practical internet tasks from job applications to filing taxes, and so on, as well as places students can go to study and research regardless of whether they're actually using paper books in the actual collection or anything to do with the library's holdings at all.

Libraries also curate. Books are selected for a collection and promoted and so on, and libraries employ specialists who really can answer questions about said books or make recommendations. This is literally the difference between the Apple Store and ... uh ... the App Store. At least in the US, libraries actually often already have live chat applets available on the website, so users can "ask a librarian" when they're accessing the catalogue from elsewhere. All of those functions require living, breathing people in a building somewhere. May as well keep them with, you know, the books.

Then there are the other media that libraries actually curate. Sure, music CDs or movies, and streaming will probably eventually replace those, if we have some kind of lending system in place for digital media, which, hey, dream big, once broadband is universal, which it's not. Periodicals, microfiche newspapers, occasional sculptural pieces.

And yeah, then, on top of all of that, there are the non-book, non-computer, non-media things that libraries do, and I don't see any reason on earth that any other institution is going to step in to do them. Certainly not without turning it into an advertisement for this or that cause or corporation. Makerspaces and Minecraft days for the kids. Shit, free programming classes. Who the hell is doing that?

Not everything exists in e-book form, obviously, and there are disadvantages to using e-books for some texts (not all books are printed on 9" 9:16 paper), and it's questionable whether the licensing for e-book lending would actually be less costly than acquiring all those paper books, but that's minor implementation stuff. If you wanted to do the things that libraries already do right now, but more efficiently, and with a particular distaste for paper media, sell the books, but you're going to need the buildings. You could undoubtedly do with fewer expert employees with a little automation, which is to say that Google could probably write a very good information specialist for most purposes. Libraries could do more with the funding they have with the right IT (which is not to say that many of them aren't improving in that direction).

And, you know, make free lending of streaming media possible, which is ... basically going to take more convincing for the part of rights holders than it is for the libraries themselves to take up this plan. But obviously, that's a fight that'll need to be taken up at some point anyway, if we want the very act of curation itself to remain a thing for more than a decade.

Never mind that the buildings themselves are often beautiful civic treasures in their own rights, and damn well should be, because if you're going to build cathedrals to anything, it might as well be knowledge, and fuck me if it comes with corporate sponsorship.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Chen » Wed Dec 09, 2015 12:48 pm UTC

You'd still need some system to monitor which Ebooks people had loaned out, just like current libraries do. Unless you mean you'd pay for each and every Ebook anyone downloaded which would be insane in cost. Libraries only get to loan out 1 copy of the Ebook for every license they purchase. Also, at present Ebooks seem significantly more expensive than normal books for a library to get (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/06 ... arian.html)

You also run into problems since you'd need to keep a bureaucracy going to figure out who had already received an E-reader, and when you sent out new ones to new households. I'm not really sure how you'd even track that, as kids grew up and moved out and the like.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Dec 09, 2015 12:55 pm UTC

What exactly do you think is broken about the present model? Are you trying to reduce the expense? What it appears to be happening is that you are trying to shift the costs from the tax base to the user. In my home town the Library's proper name is the "Louisville Free Public Library". With the emphasis on Free. But perhaps I am wrong or simply dated in what I expect from the Library.

What I expect the Library to do is to curate a collection of media and make that collection available to me at no cost. That doesn't mean everything, but the best of everything in as much as such a phantasm is possible. The Library should also be a safe space for children. Where they can explore within a framework where they can be guided, rather than tossed willy nilly into a sea of words. A social space where they can share the experience. I suppose if anything I would rather see Library's expanded with things like maker spaces.

Invariably the one thing that Library's do is to remove the restrictions from the user and take those restrictions into themselves. A Library user never has to think about the how of it. Not how to charge the device nor what do do when you don't have connectivity or if you are just plain intimidated by the whole thing. You walk the stacks, or ask the Librarian, take the book and sit down to read. Some children's only experience with computers might end up being in the Library. Where they can have reliable connectivity, curated browsing and a quiet spot with no distractions. The same for adults.

Invariably, or so I believe, making it pay, eventually would make it exactly like everything else, penalize those who can't afford it. I'm lucky, more or less, in that I have access to a lot, and as such don't use the Library much at all. But I feel better knowing that the physical space is there. I'm not really sure if this is responsive to your post, but anyway just sharing my thoughts.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Dec 09, 2015 1:03 pm UTC

I would prefer we reduce the expenses of libraries and continue to make them open access points. Not every 'home' can have an e-reader. Not every person owns a home.

I consider libraries to be a bit of a luddite hold over, but I would much rather see them persist than be discarded. Before we could dispense with libraries, I would want to see -

1 ) Every place of residence come preinstalled with an e-reader surface that has access to everything libraries has. That's internet, all references, all local and national news, etc. This seems extraordinarily unlikely. My landlord refused to repair a gas leak...

2 ) Existing libraries refurbished to effectively become free internet access points with reasonably up to date computers, and all classes and community activities continued.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Dec 09, 2015 1:09 pm UTC

I don't think libraries are a holdover from anything at all. Again, if the paper media is distracting you, consider that publishers apparently really hate the idea that the e-books they sell might actually be efficient and smart enough to replace paper books, and seem to be doing everything they can to prevent that becoming practical.

morriswalters wrote:What exactly do you think is broken about the present model?


Indeed. I feel like public libraries are pretty nearly the least broken public institution or corporate entity we have around.

And the public-private divide always makes this kind of discussion weird to me and puts a strange onus on public institutions that I don't understand. No one ever suggests shuttering all fast food joints and replacing them with vending machines and microwaves to reduce costs.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby PAstrychef » Wed Dec 09, 2015 1:10 pm UTC

NO.
There are plenty of reasons to keep hard copies available to the public. They never need batteries, have no DRM and can be lent or copied as desired. Not mention that it is counter indicated to use an e-reader in the bathtub. Leave an e-reader I the rain and you're toast. Given that the government already wants to track your reading habits, shall we make it easy for them? Any publicly provided reader will have surveillance built in, you know that.
The sharing of ideas and literature through actual interactions with real people is important, especially to children. Storytime is one of the best ways to get kids to read and keep them doing so. Discussion groups for all ages can help lonely kids find friends, and adults with few friends to make new ones.
The assistance provided by librarians is very useful, from finding "that big blue book about trucks" (a frequent request when I worked in children's services) to unearthing that obscure docudrama about Shakelton to finding information that has not yet -gasp!- been digitized. The idea that anyone can do effective research because they can use Google is like saying anyone can be a chef because they can make microwave popcorn. Librarians are also good at healing you find the next great book to read.
The whole free part is very important to poor folks, who are most likely to have issues with devices that need to be maintained.
Not every one has access to streaming content. I don't have cable tv services because I almost never turn the damn thing on. I like to borrow a dvd, for free, and watch a movie or two, or maybe a series that has a redeeming quality or two. The audio quality of most streamed music just sucks compared to a proper recording. Also, the audio quality of the playback equipment otherwise known as my phone or tablet sucks.
Folks who spend much of their time on the internet forget that whole swathes of the world do not. Those who really benefit from free public libraries are people who can't afford a data plan, and who may well be homeless or unemployed. Getting a job these days requires being able to apply online.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Dec 09, 2015 1:48 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I don't think libraries are a holdover from anything at all.
I've used the public library in my town a handful of times, as well as my schools library. There's a pretty significant difference in the level of updating the public library has gotten, not surprisingly, compared to the schools.

I think both are immensely important components of the communities they serve, but I can understand a desire to see public libraries become 'more efficient'. That said, people tend to not like actually paying into programs that would support such public spaces. For what it's worth, since I'm a big fan of social programming and helping people get on their feet, I think libraries are extremely important.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Dec 09, 2015 3:09 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Just throwing something a bit mad out there (or is it?)

Using the UK as an example: There are approximately 4,000 public libraries, costing about a billion pounds a year to maintain.

What if we closed them all down and instead we bought every household in the country an e-reader equipped with a prepaid SIM card for anywhere downloading of books?


That's...not really the same thing. First off, there's licensing issues for books and so on. Having the e-reader doesn't

E-reader maint would be significant. Tech support issues would be...not trivial. A lot of folks are just not overly familiar with technology. If you're providing anywhere close to a similar level of service, you're going to need a big staff to actually do that. Just...like libraries, really.

Public libraries provide other services besides books. I work with local libraries on board game events, and they've got a slate of other events, particularly aimed at children. Not only are they getting them to read(something an e-reader likely cannot duplicate), they are good at exposing children to different healthy activities.

Now, granted, to some degree, this can be handled by community centers, sure...but you're not really saving money that way, you're just relabeling the organization doing the thing. So...I'm not sure what the actual point of this would be, given that saving money seems to go out the window right off.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby ucim » Wed Dec 09, 2015 4:23 pm UTC

The very existence of and support for free public libraries is society's way of saying that thinking, knowledge, culture, enlightenment, and access are valued. This ethic shapes society in Good Ways. Eliminating that in favor of throwing a bunch of surveillance bots disguised as shiny tech things (that will be obsolete before you can figure out how to use them) would be society's way of saying "u r pwned". I consider this a Bad Thing.

Not only does it automate governmental spying on people's reading habits (thus encouraging them to not read at all!), it also facilitates the censorship and modification of what people are reading, as they read it.

I'd also say that the key ingredient of libraries is not books. It's librarians. Whether you use them at the reference desk to help you find some obscure piece of information, or you just wander to the stacks yourself and pluck out something interesting, there is a whole host of librarians who selected and curated the collection you are enjoying, and are dedicated to ensuring that it is made available on the best terms, to everyone without regard to... pretty much anything. And will help you make sense of it if you need that.

There aren't many areas of government I think highly of, but libraries and librarians are tops. It's almost certainly one of the best aspects of government.

Further, the economic argument is totally bogus. Government is not in business to make money. It is in business to provide services. The library is one of the best services that can be provided, and it is being provided in pretty much the best way. Muck with it at your (and our collective) peril.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby elasto » Wed Dec 09, 2015 6:59 pm UTC

Wow. Noone at all thinks my idea is a good one. Are libraries in the US seriously that good?

Ok, I'll respond to a selected set of comments:

This is a somewhat US-centric picture of libraries I'm sure, but for a lot of people in low income or education brackets, this is where those people go to get online, learn the basics of using computers, get free tech support for handling practical internet tasks from job applications to filing taxes, and so on, as well as places students can go to study and research regardless of whether they're actually using paper books in the actual collection or anything to do with the library's holdings at all.

Put that objection to one side for the moment as, personally, I'd be in favor of wiring up every household to the net for free, as well as giving out free Chromebooks (or cheap equivalent). And if online courses currently aren't good enough to teach people 'practical internet tasks from job applications to filling taxes' I'd hope they could become so in the next decade or so.

Libraries also curate. Books are selected for a collection and promoted and so on, and libraries employ specialists who really can answer questions about said books or make recommendations. This is literally the difference between the Apple Store and ... uh ... the App Store. At least in the US, libraries actually often already have live chat applets available on the website, so users can "ask a librarian" when they're accessing the catalogue from elsewhere. All of those functions require living, breathing people in a building somewhere. May as well keep them with, you know, the books.

No reason this couldn't be centralised though.

Yes, a big part of this is about providing a better public service for cheaper. Or is the UK and US suddenly running a massive tax surplus and didn't tell me..?

You'd still need some system to monitor which Ebooks people had loaned out, just like current libraries do. Unless you mean you'd pay for each and every Ebook anyone downloaded which would be insane in cost.

I would envisage a system similar to the current model where people keep a book for as long as they want, and can get a new one once they return the old one. Might need some technical work but probably not too much as some e-readers already have the ability to delete books remotely.

Libraries only get to loan out 1 copy of the Ebook for every license they purchase.

No reason to keep this model - it belongs to a bygone era; It could be more like the streaming model where all books are automatically made available and a small fee is paid every time a book is read.

Also, at present Ebooks seem significantly more expensive than normal books for a library to get

Again, no reason our governments couldn't pass laws to correct this failure in the market to operate correctly.

What exactly do you think is broken about the present model? Are you trying to reduce the expense?

I am trying to reduce the expense and improve the service.

In my home town the Library's proper name is the "Louisville Free Public Library". With the emphasis on Free. But perhaps I am wrong or simply dated in what I expect from the Library.

No, I'd be quite happy to see it remaining free at the point of use. I am from the country of the free NHS after all. I'm offering the possibility of the end-user paying a small fee also as a fig-leaf to those that believe in use-based taxation is all.

Invariably the one thing that Library's do is to remove the restrictions from the user and take those restrictions into themselves. A Library user never has to think about the how of it. Not how to charge the device nor what do do when you don't have connectivity or if you are just plain intimidated by the whole thing. You walk the stacks, or ask the Librarian, take the book and sit down to read.

How genuinely accessible are public libraries to the very poorest though? I mean, don't they take a bus ride to get to, which costs time and money? There is already a 'use fee' attached to every time you take out and return a book - a use-fee I'm suggesting removing entirely by giving everyone a library in their own home - and a library that always has the book you want in stock, no less. I'm imagining the poor making way more use of libraries than they currently do with this change.

The very existence of and support for free public libraries is society's way of saying that thinking, knowledge, culture, enlightenment, and access are valued. This ethic shapes society in Good Ways. Eliminating that in favor of throwing a bunch of surveillance bots disguised as shiny tech things (that will be obsolete before you can figure out how to use them) would be society's way of saying "u r pwned". I consider this a Bad Thing.

This seems like paranoid nonsense. The government could just as easily track the books you take out of a physical library as ones you read on your e-reader.

I'd also say that the key ingredient of libraries is not books. It's librarians. Whether you use them at the reference desk to help you find some obscure piece of information, or you just wander to the stacks yourself and pluck out something interesting, there is a whole host of librarians who selected and curated the collection you are enjoying, and are dedicated to ensuring that it is made available on the best terms, to everyone without regard to... pretty much anything. And will help you make sense of it if you need that.

No reason to remove that. Librarians could be available online if the demand was there for it.

Further, the economic argument is totally bogus. Government is not in business to make money. It is in business to provide services.

This is a false dichotomy. If governments can provide the same service for cheaper, it means they can provide a better service for the same money. Doesn't matter what the service is - whether it's providing healthcare, public transport, public housing or whatever - if you can reduce the cost, you can either return the surplus to the taxpayer or spend it on further improving the service. Either way it's a win.
Last edited by elasto on Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:09 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:09 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Wow. Noone at all thinks my idea is a good one. Are libraries in the US seriously that good?


The management of physical books and so on is something that's been around a good long while. They've had time to polish off the rough edges. At a certain point, I accept than a nation of specialists who have done this for hundreds of years might have already thought of anything I, an outsider to the field, have pondered.

Stuff like ebooks have already been long played with by them. It ain't gonna be a surprise for them.

And I don't see any reason to suspect that your idea would produce a better system.

Note that "change all the legal models" is not anything like a realistic approach. Even if it could be done, it isn't actually reducing costs. It's merely reducing compensation to authors and publishers.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby elasto » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:21 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The management of physical books and so on is something that's been around a good long while. They've had time to polish off the rough edges. At a certain point, I accept than a nation of specialists who have done this for hundreds of years might have already thought of anything I, an outsider to the field, have pondered.

Stuff like ebooks have already been long played with by them. It ain't gonna be a surprise for them.

And I don't see any reason to suspect that your idea would produce a better system.


Let me pose a related question then.

Suppose a third-world country that is undergoing rapid economic development puts you in charge of public education. You have a choice of investing a massive amount of capital in founding libraries from scratch and stocking them all with physical books and staff - or you could recommend putting the nation online and allowing everyone to have a library in their own home. Which road would you recommend the government travel down?

Still see no reason to suspect my way has any advantages over the current model?

Note that "change all the legal models" is not anything like a realistic approach. Even if it could be done, it isn't actually reducing costs. It's merely reducing compensation to authors and publishers.

What? You realise that it actually costs money to print physical books and transport them to libraries, right? And if that book is leant out a thousand times over its lifetime, you realise that that's a thousand journeys that have been made by the borrowers too, right? It's not just cheaper to deliver books electronically, it's also better for the environment - something that will become increasingly important over the coming decades.
Last edited by elasto on Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:23 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Chen » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:22 pm UTC

elasto wrote:No reason to keep this model - it belongs to a bygone era; It could be more like the streaming model where all books are automatically made available and a small fee is paid every time a book is read.


Again, no reason our governments couldn't pass laws to correct this failure in the market to operate correctly.


How exactly would this work? If you're looking for a cost savings, presumably that would mean paying less for the books. Why would any publishers agree to this? You can't force them to sell you their products at a price they don't agree with.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby elasto » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:25 pm UTC

Chen wrote:How exactly would this work? If you're looking for a cost savings, presumably that would mean paying less for the books. Why would any publishers agree to this? You can't force them to sell you their products at a price they don't agree with.


At minimum I would say an electronic book should cost less than a physical book by an amount equal to the cost of printing and transportation.

It's the same reason watching a music video on Youtube costs less than buying a cd single in a store.

That e-books frequently cost more than a physical book is nothing more than a failure in the free market.

How exactly would this work? If you're looking for a cost savings, presumably that would mean paying less for the books. Why would any publishers agree to this? You can't force them to sell you their products at a price they don't agree with.

Of course. They would be quite within their rights to not sell their book in your country at all. But that'd be cutting off their nose to spite their face. Once the book has been written, they might as well get any profit they can from your country's market. It's like how the UK NHS is frequently able to purchase drugs far cheaper than US hospitals pay: When the choice is between a small profit and no profit at all, companies realistically choose to take a small profit.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Chen » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:33 pm UTC

elasto wrote:At minimum I would say an electronic book should cost less than a physical book by an amount equal to the cost of printing and transportation.

It's the same reason watching a music video on Youtube costs less than buying a cd single in a store.

That e-books frequently cost more than a physical book is nothing more than a failure in the free market.


Firstly there are advantages to Ebooks, such as being able to carry a ton of them around without any extra weight. Why could I not charge you more for that benefit? Especially if the market can bear the cost. In terms of libraries I can see Ebooks costing more since they don't wear out. They don't need to be replaced. So if the average turn-over for a book is 100 lendings and a title gets lent out 1000 times before the library decides to stop buying new ones, wouldn't it make sense to price the Ebook at roughly 10x the cost of a normal one? How is this a failure of the free market?

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:53 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The management of physical books and so on is something that's been around a good long while. They've had time to polish off the rough edges. At a certain point, I accept than a nation of specialists who have done this for hundreds of years might have already thought of anything I, an outsider to the field, have pondered.

Stuff like ebooks have already been long played with by them. It ain't gonna be a surprise for them.

And I don't see any reason to suspect that your idea would produce a better system.


Let me pose a related question then.

Suppose a third-world country that is undergoing rapid economic development puts you in charge of public education. You have a choice of investing a massive amount of capital in founding libraries from scratch and stocking them all with physical books and staff - or you could recommend putting the nation online and allowing everyone to have a library in their own home. Which road would you recommend the government travel down?


I think this would depend on a lot of things. How quickly do you think you can get your electrical grid up and running and how reliable will it be? Same with the wireless network? How big is the country? Are ebooks actually available in the language of the country? Is the e-reader operating system available in that language? How well will the e-readers survive the climate? How easily can they be maintained? What is their lifespan under typical use conditions in that climate? What happens to them when they are inevitably lost/stolen/broken? If the average person only has one electrical outlet and gets 30 minutes of electricity per day out of it, how realistic is it that they will be able to keep their e-readers charged? How will you teach people to use them? How will you distribute them?

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby elasto » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:59 pm UTC

I think this would depend on a lot of things. How quickly do you think you can get your electrical grid up and running and how reliable will it be? Same with the wireless network? How big is the country? Are ebooks actually available in the language of the country? Is the e-reader operating system available in that language? How well will the e-readers survive the climate? How easily can they be maintained? What is their lifespan under typical use conditions in that climate? What happens to them when they are inevitably lost/stolen/broken? If the average person only has one electrical outlet and gets 30 minutes of electricity per day out of it, how realistic is it that they will be able to keep their e-readers charged? How will you teach people to use them? How will you distribute them?

All perfectly valid questions. However, I'd argue that any equivalent set of valid (and far more problematic) questions could be raised for public libraries.

For example, just take a look at how mobile-based payments and lending are really taking off in Africa - and revolutionising it. There are enormous advantages for electronic banking vs physical banking just as there are for electronic reading vs physical reading, and the continent is all the better for being able to leapfrog straight into it.

Chen wrote:Firstly there are advantages to Ebooks, such as being able to carry a ton of them around without any extra weight. Why could I not charge you more for that benefit?

By that logic maybe Randall should be charging us more for us to have this conversation here than we'd have to pay to have it by long-distance phone call. After all, it's much more convenient for us to to have this conversation this way!

In terms of libraries I can see Ebooks costing more since they don't wear out. They don't need to be replaced. So if the average turn-over for a book is 100 lendings and a title gets lent out 1000 times before the library decides to stop buying new ones, wouldn't it make sense to price the Ebook at roughly 10x the cost of a normal one? How is this a failure of the free market?

That'd be a failure of the free market because it takes the benefit of e-books and gives all the benefits to the producer (via increased remuneration) instead of to the consumer.

Remember, when information goes electronic, the number of people who access it goes way up. eg. 'Major Lazer & DJ Snake's Lean On' has been downloaded almost a billion times on Youtube alone. It doesn't make sense for the producer to be earning way more given a fixed cost of creating the content once. That'd be a failure in market forces as I say.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:00 pm UTC

Chen wrote:In terms of libraries I can see Ebooks costing more since they don't wear out. They don't need to be replaced.
Would it that it was so simple. I don't generally use ebooks at Library's. I'll let this article tell the story.
Why It’s Difficult For Your Library to Lend Ebooks
elasto wrote:How genuinely accessible are public libraries to the very poorest though? I mean, don't they take a bus ride to get to, which costs time and money? There is already a 'use fee' attached to every time you take out and return a book - a use-fee I'm suggesting removing entirely by giving everyone a library in their own home - and a library that always has the book you want in stock, no less. I'm imagining the poor making way more use of libraries than they currently do with this change.
I don't know about your jurisdiction. My local Library has 18 locations scattered over the city and there are no user fees. All you need is a Library card, which is free. It interconnects with the University and college Libraries as well as school Libraries. There is a bookmobile for both children and adults. And all Library services are available online if suitable. Books can be ordered for loan online and made available at you closest branch. Here is a link to the services my Library offers.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby elasto » Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:04 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:My local Library has 18 locations scattered over the city and there are no user fees. All you need is a Library card, which is free.

Sorry, by 'user fee' I meant the fact it takes an hour+ - more likely two hours+ - out of your day (and how many of the working poor can really prioritize their time in such a way) plus however many dollars it costs for a return bus journey.

Borrowing a physical book a week could easily cost hundreds of dollars a year for the average poor person - if they even had the time spare to do it in between working two jobs and taking care of their family - whereas borrowing an e-book a week would cost them nothing in either time or money.

---

The market forces argument is important if for no other reason than that the book market is going to be forced to accept the 'new reality' of a larger number of smaller payments instead of a smaller number of larger payments just like the music industry was forced to: Because I can go onto Google right now and torrent any book I want for free.

Exactly the same arguments will apply: People won't (and don't) torrent books merely to save money, but because it will be (and is already) much more convenient.

The fact they will have to be more realistic in how they monetize selling to libraries is just going to be a small part of the fact they are going to have to be more realistic in how they monetize their product full stop...

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:28 pm UTC

Chen wrote:
elasto wrote:No reason to keep this model - it belongs to a bygone era; It could be more like the streaming model where all books are automatically made available and a small fee is paid every time a book is read.


Again, no reason our governments couldn't pass laws to correct this failure in the market to operate correctly.


How exactly would this work? If you're looking for a cost savings, presumably that would mean paying less for the books. Why would any publishers agree to this? You can't force them to sell you their products at a price they don't agree with.


I think exactly that is what is being proposed. But...that has some wide ranging implications that go way beyond just libraries, and into devaluing of knowledge altogether. I mean, if you can have infinite ebooks whenever...who is going to actually BUY an ebook? It sorta kills the sale markets too. So, how exactly do authors make a buck?

elasto wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:The management of physical books and so on is something that's been around a good long while. They've had time to polish off the rough edges. At a certain point, I accept than a nation of specialists who have done this for hundreds of years might have already thought of anything I, an outsider to the field, have pondered.

Stuff like ebooks have already been long played with by them. It ain't gonna be a surprise for them.

And I don't see any reason to suspect that your idea would produce a better system.


Let me pose a related question then.

Suppose a third-world country that is undergoing rapid economic development puts you in charge of public education. You have a choice of investing a massive amount of capital in founding libraries from scratch and stocking them all with physical books and staff - or you could recommend putting the nation online and allowing everyone to have a library in their own home. Which road would you recommend the government travel down?

Still see no reason to suspect my way has any advantages over the current model?


The third world is a shitty model for how we should change our government. You're making the same error people do when they say that anarchism improved Somalia. Yes. But it's Somalia. It's still awful shitty in comparison to what we have now.

elasto wrote:
Note that "change all the legal models" is not anything like a realistic approach. Even if it could be done, it isn't actually reducing costs. It's merely reducing compensation to authors and publishers.

What? You realise that it actually costs money to print physical books and transport them to libraries, right? And if that book is leant out a thousand times over its lifetime, you realise that that's a thousand journeys that have been made by the borrowers too, right? It's not just cheaper to deliver books electronically, it's also better for the environment - something that will become increasingly important over the coming decades.


Yes, literally everyone in the world understands that books need to be printed and transported. So do ereaders. That shit doesn't come from fairy dust. When books need to be recycled, well...they're paper. One of the easier things to recycle or dispose of. Even if just buried, they make a nice carbon sink. Electronics are far less awesome as they age.

You're not going to only buy ereaders once. You're going to buy ereaders forever. Technology changes. Old ones are lost and broken. You're suggest doing away with paper and ink, and putting electronics everywhere.

This has been suggested as the inevitible future for a great many decades now. I'm not sure why futurists hate paper and ink so much, but they're pretty much invariably wrong, as they underestimate the convenience of paper, or overestimate the appeal of electronics.

Look at the individual. Will the individual borrow a thousand books? No. In the US, I believe the median is 6/yr.

Use real numbers when computing costs, and suddenly ereaders for everyone begins to seem pretty silly.

elasto wrote:
Chen wrote:How exactly would this work? If you're looking for a cost savings, presumably that would mean paying less for the books. Why would any publishers agree to this? You can't force them to sell you their products at a price they don't agree with.


At minimum I would say an electronic book should cost less than a physical book by an amount equal to the cost of printing and transportation.

It's the same reason watching a music video on Youtube costs less than buying a cd single in a store.

That e-books frequently cost more than a physical book is nothing more than a failure in the free market.


No, this is nothing more than a failure to understand the free market. You seem to have internalized the labor theory of value. This is usually not what people refer to when they mention the free market.

Prices are determined by how consumers value the products. In some instances, a paper book may be more valuable. In some, an ebook. It depends.

I've never paid a user fee at a library. I've donated to them, sure. In some instances, paid fines when I was late. Nothing major, though. Those aren't really the same as user fees, though. When I was a broke college student, the library provided a lot of education and entertainment at effectively no cost to me, and frankly, at a fairly low cost overall, considering utilization.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:31 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Borrowing a physical book a week could easily cost hundreds of dollars a year for the average poor person - if they even had the time spare to do it in between working two jobs and taking care of their family - whereas borrowing an e-book a week would cost them nothing in either time or money.
If they are that busy they aren't reading in any case. And children have time and in Libraries they have a safe space. And the Library already makes ebooks available, as well as audiobooks. They provide services for the hearing impaired and the blind. What your idea does is reduce choice.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:49 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:
elasto wrote:Borrowing a physical book a week could easily cost hundreds of dollars a year for the average poor person - if they even had the time spare to do it in between working two jobs and taking care of their family - whereas borrowing an e-book a week would cost them nothing in either time or money.
If they are that busy they aren't reading in any case. And children have time and in Libraries they have a safe space. And the Library already makes ebooks available, as well as audiobooks. They provide services for the hearing impaired and the blind. What your idea does is reduce choice.


Poverty is correlated with reduced hours at work(because, well, being unemployed kind of causes poverty). IE, they frequently have time, but no money. Walking or biking to the local library is a good form of cheap entertainment that has the side effect of maybe improving hiring chances. Not only through the reading, but because every library I've ever seen offers programs, and job boards.

Yes, yes, you can put all that on the internet, too...but it's not the same. An ereader might be sold because, again, no money. Or it might be broken. Or they might not know how to use it, whereas talking to a librarian is pretty easy.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby PeteP » Wed Dec 09, 2015 9:17 pm UTC

PAstrychef wrote: Not mention that it is counter indicated to use an e-reader in the bathtub. Leave an e-reader I the rain and you're toast.

Um have you ever tried? I regularly bath with my kindle, while a paperbook easily gets ruined by a bit of water and you have to be careful when bathing a kindle can get a bit wet and you simply wipe it off. Though I don't recommend that anyone takes their ereader in the bathtub since I don't want to be at fault if you manage to damage it.^^ (And I wouldn't recommend leaving it in the rain either because that implies prolonged exposure and who knows what that might do.) Anyway are you talking out of a general electronics=> not water feeling or have you reason to believe that ereaders are that vulnerable?

But yes ereader do get damaged sometimes.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Dec 09, 2015 10:51 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Just throwing something a bit mad out there (or is it?)

Using the UK as an example: There are approximately 4,000 public libraries, costing about a billion pounds a year to maintain.

What if we closed them all down and instead we bought every household in the country an e-reader equipped with a prepaid SIM card for anywhere downloading of books?


I'm reminded of this reddit comment on a thread about Murakami's library records being leaked:
u/Todd_sanchez wrote:Teens, in libraries, are free to read books about being gay, married people are free to get books on divorce, young adults are free to look up stuff on STDs, and reporters are free to look through government reports.


If you replace the library with only a single e-reader for each household, then you give heads of household power to control access to the reader and the ability the see what other members of the household have been using it for. A situation ripe for abuse.

You'd also be ignoring people without a household, the homeless and such who also make use of the library system.

elasto wrote:There are about 26m households in the UK, so if each e-reader cost £50 that'd be about £1.3Bn - or about the cost of running the public library system for a year. And, heck, selling off those 4,000 buildings could easily raise that much capital anyhow.

Ok, so to discuss some of the complications:

> There are still 'running costs' - ie. reimbursing the copyright holders for loaning out the books and paying the monthly bandwidth costs
-- Not sure what proportion of the current £1Bn yearly costs that represents, but with no staffing costs or heating bills etc., one would hope that perhaps it'd cost 80% less than now. (E-books should cost far less than physical books anyhow - and the government could make that a law if it had to...)


There's definitely still gonna be staffing costs and other logistical costs associated with this program, unless you intend the e-readers to self-determine which addresses are eligible and require an e-reader, and then to mail themselves there and so on. You'll need at least as much human bureaucracy as any other public service program, including local offices where people can go to have issues with the program addressed and to receive their e-reader if they don't have a fixed address to have it mailed to.
You also definitely can't just send out a reasonably complex gadget into the world as a government service and not expect to have continuing costs to maintain and replace them. Even if you take the bafflingly callous approach that anyone who damages or loses their gadget is not deserving of a replacement, they still have a relatively short usable lifetime, and as population increases you'll be required to continue distributing new readers anyway.

-- Readers could theoretically make a contribution - let's say a small fee per month and per book - depending on whether we wanted this whole thing funded from central taxation or split with consumers.
-- The whole thing could be self-sufficient if we really wanted (or even make a profit!)


Public libraries are generally free. I think you need to take a long hard look at what you're thinking if you believe taking a free service available to everyone and limiting who has access to it and charging a fee is 'better'. The poor and homeless gain a disproportionately large value from free public libraries and your idea completely ignores them.

> The e-readers could get broken, lost, stolen or simply sold off
-- They could. Perhaps schools could have spare e-readers they allow children to use while on the premises for when a household fails to take care of theirs. And replacement e-readers could of course be bought by a household if it's genuinely lost. Perhaps the first replacement could be free also or something

There's gonna have to be continuous support and distribution of new and replacement e-readers, otherwise the whole program is worth less even than it already is.

> The SIM cards could be abused - hacked to download other things or to make calls
-- Seems to me that, in theory at least, the telecoms companies could block it at their end: Such SIM cards only being allowed to download books, with a fail-safe cutoff if a disproportionate amount of data is downloaded. Obviously that would up the initial funding cost though.


I think the best you could do is however Amazon has their whispernet thing provisioned. Trying to get any more complicated than that is gonna run into problems and probably incur additional infrastructure costs.
Considering that internet access is another service that libraries provide, I don't see why you would prevent a library-replacement e-reader program from accessing the internet. You're already incurring similar if not greater cost for much reduced usability, no need to dig that hole any deeper.

> Libraries don't just loan out books
-- Sure, and that's part of what I hope to explore here. I know they loan out music, but there seems little need for that in 2015 and free streaming services. Plus it's not of the same social and educational importance as reading. (Personally I wouldn't be averse to every household having publicly funded broadband too, but I don't want to muddle this thread too much :D )


Again, you're ignoring the plight of low income and homeless populations served by public libraries. They might not have internet access or even a smart phone for 'free' music streaming, but could have a cd player to check out music and audio-books with. ANd again, 'every household' doesn't necessarily include this population currently served by the public library system but apparently left out in the cold by your proposed program.

-- They also provide some kind of community focal point, put on education classes, allow people to go online for free etc. But it seems to me other bodies could take this aspect on.


Sure, at a commensurate cost. If you think that this program would be cheaper or even relatively the same price as the current public library system, you're delusional.

Terrible idea or worth exploring?


Well, it'd provide fewer services to a smaller proportion of the population, enable censorship and other abuses, all at a similar or greater cost to the public.

I guess this would be worth exploring if you wanted to create a replacement for the Public Library system that is suitable to a totalitarian regime, otherwise not so much.

PeteP wrote:
PAstrychef wrote: Not mention that it is counter indicated to use an e-reader in the bathtub. Leave an e-reader I the rain and you're toast.

Um have you ever tried? I regularly bath with my kindle, while a paperbook easily gets ruined by a bit of water and you have to be careful when bathing a kindle can get a bit wet and you simply wipe it off. Though I don't recommend that anyone takes their ereader in the bathtub since I don't want to be at fault if you manage to damage it.^^ (And I wouldn't recommend leaving it in the rain either because that implies prolonged exposure and who knows what that might do.) Anyway are you talking out of a general electronics=> not water feeling or have you reason to believe that ereaders are that vulnerable?

But yes ereader do get damaged sometimes.


I put my e-reader in a ziplock bag sometimes and take it into the shower. Works pretty well. Though I guess such a solution might not work with the newer touch-screen ones if they don't have physical buttons.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed Dec 09, 2015 11:18 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Wow. Noone at all thinks my idea is a good one. Are libraries in the US seriously that good?

I think my question at this point is, how bloody awful is the British library system?
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Dec 10, 2015 12:15 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:I put my e-reader in a ziplock bag sometimes and take it into the shower. Works pretty well. Though I guess such a solution might not work with the newer touch-screen ones if they don't have physical buttons.
I can see a long soak, but shower?

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Cradarc » Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:37 am UTC

I think the main problem with e-books is that they depend heavily on electricity and the internet.

1. What if you lived in a part of the world where there is little internet infrastructure?
Sure, the government can give our e-book hardware for free, but you can't "check out" new books without some connection to the internet. The internet can also be easily disrupted. A malicious organization can cripple people's access to books over a vast area. Also, what happens if you accidentally break your hardware? Do you have to pay for your new one or will the government be picking up the tab?
2. What if you want to preserve a book for posterity?
Paper books with pictures is the main way we keep records for our descendants. Electronic data can be accidentally wiped, and data can be difficult to recover from outdated technology.
3. What if you want to read books on a long camping trip?
Although technology is very convenient, sometimes people like to get away. Must they sacrifice the joy of reading to do so?

Of course, eliminating public libraries won't eliminate paper books altogether. However, if you are going to allow bookstores to continue existing, the only real argument against public libraries is "they use tax money". Is that necessarily a bad thing? As long as the library is adding value to the community and being used very often, it can't be a waste of money.
I don't know about the UK, but the US spends over a billion dollars to make a single stealth bomber. If we're going to talk about unnecessary spending, public libraries are at the bottom of the list.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby ucim » Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:22 am UTC

elasto wrote:Wow. Noone at all thinks my idea is a good one. Are libraries in the US seriously that good?
Libraries are awesome.

elasto wrote:
ucim wrote:The very existence of and support for free public libraries is society's way of saying that thinking, knowledge, culture, enlightenment, and access are valued. This ethic shapes society in Good Ways. Eliminating that in favor of throwing a bunch of surveillance bots disguised as shiny tech things (that will be obsolete before you can figure out how to use them) would be society's way of saying "u r pwned". I consider this a Bad Thing.
This seems like paranoid nonsense. The government could just as easily track the books you take out of a physical library as ones you read on your e-reader.
No, it can't. The most it can do is tell that I borrowed a book. It can't tell that I read a book in the library. It can't tell where I stopped, how long I spent on a page, what I reread, and it can't change the text as I read it. You have no idea what software is doing, except for the obvious. However, I do know what hard copy is doing.

But you missed my actual point entirely; it's embodied in the first sentence quoted. Think on that. And then make a stack of coins comparing the total library budget of the country with another stack of coins representing the total police budget, or the total war budget, or the total welfare budget.

elasto wrote:Librarians could be available online if the demand was there for it.
Again you miss the point - librarians are what makes libraries work in the first place. They're not there just "on demand" for people. They are always there, working behind the scenes.

elasto wrote:
ucim wrote:Further, the economic argument is totally bogus. Government is not in business to make money. It is in business to provide services.
This is a false dichotomy. If governments can provide the same service for cheaper...
No, it's a real dichotomy, just not where you're looking. The point is purpose. You cannot have both as your purpose. And your proposal most emphatically does not provide the same service. It provides a very different, stripped down, monitored, more fragile service than we have now, with great opportunity for abuse. And even greater opportunity for collapse when file formats change, USB specs change, license terms change... and it would be a service that's much closer to what's already on the internet (which, btw, does not resemble a real library at all). Inside of a short time, somebody will realize this and shut the whole thing down. Then we will have lost the very best thing that government has ever done.

No. I don't get why this is even an idea.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Dec 10, 2015 9:01 am UTC

On a different note... how do you deal with stuff for children? Unless the e-reader is tough enough to be dropped, stepped on, drooled on, chewed on, repeatedly, it's not going to last a day in my home. Books for very young children are usually hardcover made of heavy-duty cardboard and are designed to take a lot of abuse. I'm not sure you could get a dirt-cheap e-reader that could take the same level of punishment. E-readers are also much less interactive... you can't have things that flip or slide, different textured materials, things that pop up. How easily is my 1 year-old son going to be able to navigate the menus to find the book that he wants to read?

That's to say nothing of the free storytimes, sing-a-longs, craft days, toy areas, vaccination clinics, games days, reading clubs, etc. that are all hosted by the library. For parents with small children, especially parents on a budget, the library is your community hub.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby PAstrychef » Thu Dec 10, 2015 1:44 pm UTC

There are other issues as well. Not everything has been digitized. There are plenty of books that just don't exist in a format accessible online, and public records are decades behind in being input and uplaoded to muninciple data storage.
The idea that the whole world is contained in this tiny gadget you can carry with you is shiny and fun, but basically untrue. I get most of the audio books I listen to through my library online. The selection is quite limited. I could get a much larger selection through audible.com, but I don't want to spend the money. And I have found that plenty of books I would like to listen to do not exist as audiobooks.
The audiobooks I get through Overdrive expire automatically. If I haven't finished listening to the book, too bad. When I got CDs from the library I could choose to pay the late fines and finish listening. Same with books. As for being able to have one title as long as I want, I'm usually reading two or three books. They are in different parts of the house, or one is in my backpack to read on the train. My stack from the library is never less than three books, and I once checked out 35 in one day, from two separate libraries. (I had been in Antarctica for eight months, I had a lot of catching up to do).
The costs of creating a book do not mostly lie with the physical book itself. They lie with the editorial process and the marketing process. If you read any amount of self-published fiction, you know that the editors are not a luxury, but a necessity. I hate to imagine depending on self-published non fiction. And the look of the book-its cover art and layout-make a huge difference in how attractive it is to readers. Choosing by a list of titles alone would be much harder and fraught with bad choices.
Also, librarians can help with finding the questions you didn't know to ask. this is not trivial-you can't look up what you don't know you need.
So, it boils down to your idea being a bad one. The main goal of providing services can't be "as cheap as possible, all the time", or you end up with crap services.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Dec 10, 2015 4:38 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Of course, eliminating public libraries won't eliminate paper books altogether. However, if you are going to allow bookstores to continue existing, the only real argument against public libraries is "they use tax money". Is that necessarily a bad thing? As long as the library is adding value to the community and being used very often, it can't be a waste of money.
I don't know about the UK, but the US spends over a billion dollars to make a single stealth bomber. If we're going to talk about unnecessary spending, public libraries are at the bottom of the list.


In addition, public libraries often benefit greatly from the local community they serve. Donations, anywhere from folks contributing books to businesses or the wealthy sponsoring them. There's a reason ex-presidents are honored by libraries...they serve as a great non-partisan memorial to knowledge, etc. Viewing them as solely a drain on tax coffers is a very one sided view that isn't really looking at the whole picture. The US library system owes a great deal in particular to the Carnagie libraries. Literally thousands of them were set up by the rich. Granted, maint is still a thing, and that's not wholly donation based, but still...if you're looking at taxation, it's only what, about .2% of government spending?

It would be difficult to find a BETTER way to spend taxes, and it would be kind of ridiculous to demand that all those who donate to the current system be required to donate to some ereader nonsense, which you're running at a profit, and requiring authors and publishers to give you without due compensation. That just seems like really, really weird goal, and one in need of a lot of justification for why it should be seriously considered as better.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Zamfir » Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:01 pm UTC

Given the strong opposition against the strong plan, much would people change their minds if the plan was less ambitious and more gradual? Something to be implemented as the technology becomes stable, widely known, has plenty of books available. With a more limited scope: some of the budget of public libraries gets repuposed for an eBook program, with the focus in people who would benefit most. People in rural areas, with mobility problems, who can't read small letters. Expand if it works well, keep it limited if not.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:03 pm UTC

Libraries already have ebook programs.

So, to the extent that such a thing is desirable, it already seems to be covered.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:01 pm UTC

A targeted plan to give e-readers to low income and/or low mobility individuals would be fine, but that would presumably in addition to current services, not in lieu of.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby ☺☺☺ » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:08 pm UTC

The public libraries in czech republic also allow you to download some of the books on e-reader. The books that are no longer affected by copyright (those that are too old) can be downloaded even without logging in.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby cphite » Fri Dec 11, 2015 1:40 am UTC

elasto wrote:Using the UK as an example: There are approximately 4,000 public libraries, costing about a billion pounds a year to maintain.

What if we closed them all down and instead we bought every household in the country an e-reader equipped with a prepaid SIM card for anywhere downloading of books?

There are about 26m households in the UK, so if each e-reader cost £50 that'd be about £1.3Bn - or about the cost of running the public library system for a year. And, heck, selling off those 4,000 buildings could easily raise that much capital anyhow.


In addition to buying the e-readers, you have to maintain them, ship them (including shipping them for repairs and replacements) as well as support them, teach people to use them, etc, etc.

Another issue you're going to face is that you're going to have to find a manufacturer (or probably several) who can meet that kind of demand surge - but then you're also going to have a situation where demand falls dramatically in the UK now that everybody has one.

You're going to spend billions over several years converting books to e-reader formats; people don't just go to libraries for popular fiction, and even in the realm of popular fiction only a small fraction has been converted.

Add to this the fact that libraries aren't just about books. They're social meeting places, they're staffed with people who are (hopefully) trained to help people find information.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby jewish_scientist » Fri Dec 11, 2015 1:42 pm UTC

Something to consider is that people do not read physical books and digital books the same way.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/artic ... r-screens/
http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-09-18/y ... same-thing

Another problem I always have whenever someone suggests that ebooks are better than paper books is that paper books are much more durable. I can drop a copy of Moby Dick down the stairs a lot more than I can drop my eReader. The paper book will also be significantly cheaper to replace than the eReader.

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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 11, 2015 2:18 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:other problem I always have whenever someone suggests that ebooks are better than paper books is that paper books are much more durable. I can drop a copy of Moby Dick down the stairs a lot more than I can drop my eReader. The paper book will also be significantly cheaper to replace than the eReader.
Truthfully, this argument always feels flat to me - it's a technology saturation issue. Cellphones are also more vulnerable than wall mounted home phones, but no one is suggesting we shouldn't use/have/develop cell phones because people may drop them. An e-reader can break in more ways than a book, but I've had plenty of books fall apart on me, and water damage to books is still a thing. Neither an e-reader nor a novel can be left in the rain.

jewish_scientist wrote:Something to consider is that people do not read physical books and digital books the same way.
As for this part, I think this is going to be a hard one to gauge at the present. Most people learned how to read and are familiar with reading on physical books. It'll be hard to tell if there's a significant difference until we can test the memory of people who learned how to read with both physical and ebooks. But I wouldn't be surprised if there were pros and cons. One huge con is that physical books don't have rapid search functions - this is huge in a textbook, when using the index isn't always easy.
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Re: Should all public libraries be closed?

Postby PAstrychef » Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:19 pm UTC

Textbooks are one of the few things where an ebook makes more sense, except to textbook publishers. Updates and revisions are much easier, and the possibilities for illustration are amazing. But they are not a general use item in most public libraries.
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