Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Recycled Ideas

Library at Alexandria - Ptolemy
Sometimes following a random link can lead you down the rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. Usually the place you arrive is less than wonderful. But sometimes there are interesting surprises - the kind you find when you leave the main roads and tourist traps when you travel.

This morning I saw a keyword search link in my stats for Pangea Day - which I spoke about here late last week. The link took me to Google (where the bulk of my referrals arrive from). Next to mine was a further link to The M word - Marketing Libraries and interesting blog authored by a small group of Librarians from the U.S. The blogroll alongside the posts was fascinating. I spent some time peering into the world of Librarians. I realise that will raise many a stereotype but I have come to realise that librarians are about as bio-diverse as any other sampling of the population.

I was reminded of conversations with my friend Kay Forrester who is the head of marketing for the large Auckland Public Library and its satellites around the wider city. We discussed what purpose libraries serve in the community. I think it would be fair to say that stored and lending books is only the tip of the iceberg.

Books are one of things I love. It might even be a fetish - it has hardly slowed since I got access to the Internet. It may even have gotten worse with access to the long tail.

I am increasingly conscious of the sustainability of printed media though. To buy a book, read it and shelve it seems a waste. I am delighted when I can share a book with another person after I am done with. Doing so halves its carbon footprint (in effect) an doubles its value. The more people who read the book the greater its value - not only for the information it contains but also for the conversations it can begin. The power of books can't be underestimated - the dark ages ended with the advent of movable type and the rise of vulgar language (i.e. not in Latin). Charles Darwin's book set the cat amongst the pigeons, as did Animal Farm, The Female Eunoch and The Cluetrain Manifesto. Books, however are, when all is send and done, a way of packaging ideas for distribution. Like magazines and newspapers they are physically toxic and I will be sorry to see them go. But go they inevitably will.

Amazon's Kindle ReaderNew ways of distributing ideas will replace them. Amazon's Kindle Reader, your computer monitor, podcasts, ebooks…you know the litany, they are with us now and will continue to gather momentum.

In the interim I suggest you use your library. Soak up the ideas, then recycle the packaging by returning the book to the shelf for the next person. Review the books you read on your blog to direct your network to the title - discuss.

It may be a stop gap measure for books in bound, physical form. In the not so distant future libraries may, indeed, become the place where you go to gawp at a copy of a physical book.

"What's that Mummy."
"It's a Robert Ludlum paperback edition."
"Is it worth a lot."
"Millions son."

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