that’s the idea

I came home from getting my hairs cut yesterday and saw the ListenIllinois website on displayed on my monitor. After adding 2 and 2, I figured that my father-in-law, who was crashing at our place for a few days, was looking at which books are available. He has recently retired, but before he did he was an avid audiobook listener when he traveled for work. Evidently he’s listened to nearly 1,000 books on tape and CD. (!) Now that he’s traveling for fun full-time, he needs some sort of audiobook solution that doesn’t include having to return materials on time. That’s what the new 60GB iPod sitting on the desk is for. He really must trust me, leaving that thing around. I won’t be able to put any library audio eBook content on his iPod. ListenIllinois runs on authorized-only Audible compatible players. And if you’ve read any of the audio eBook conversation going on, you know that content from OverDrive and Recorded Books – soon to be integrated into ListenIllinois’ catalog – won’t work on iPods because they are Windows Media Audio files.

Ok, I know that libraries shouldn’t alienate iPod users (it is kinda sad that the state librarian of Hawaii had to apologize to iPod users) and I know that libraries
should still be circulating players and books to patrons but I don’t want to get into that discussion here.*

What interested me about all of this was his assumption about how audio ebooks from a library would work. Moments like these are insights into how people think libraries operate and are valuable.

One very simple way to manufacture these moments of insight is to listen to your users. When they ask something about the library, or have an incorrect assumption, it isn’t because they’re stupid, its because they have different expectations of the library. If one person thinks that, for instance, your public computers ought to have WordPerfect as well as Word, maybe more people feel the same way. And maybe this is because Dell, one of the top (quantity-wise) producers of PCs in the world stopped providing as many pre-installed copied of MS Office on computers, and rather includes WordPerfect (true story). Take these expectations seriously, because they just might be logical, employ the path of least resistance, or save the time of the reader.

*Okay, maybe I want to have that conversation here. Much like J.K. Rowling’s piracy-begging refusal to release a HP6 eBook (HP6 scanned, proofread, and online in 12 hours after being released) and her piracy-begging exorbitant price for a HP6 audio eBook (bootlegs HP6 audiobook available) all of this audio eBook DRM madness is going to force me to, guess what? To meet the audiobooks needs of my father-in-law, I’ll either rip books from CD to MP3, download from people who have already done this, or, if I’m really desperate, burn Overdrive content to CD, then rip to MP3.

The thing that really, really gets to me about this situation (and our OPAC situation) is how we’re pretty much forced to endure the whimsy of the industry (and deal with many institutionalized hurdles). Let’s not let this impotence lead to apathy, pretty please?

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