Have you ever said something that you wish you could take back? That’s how I think many libraries feel about the whole eBook fiasco. Certainly that issue doesn’t need to be rehashed here, but I do want to mention an impact that I percieve it has had on technology in libraries. Namely, I think that libraries are slightly nervous to stick their necks out again.
Perhaps we can use the eBook event to learn about how we should think about acquiring new technologies. Wouldn’t you agree that eBooks were largely pushed by the people selling them? It wasn’t the case that readers were clammering for them. In fact, the late 90s incarnation of eBook readers were met with resistance from readers. People, including many librarians, hated them. Sure, libraries should guide their patrons through the process of exploring new technologies, but shouldn’t (and cannot successfully) force technologies. Think here of OPACs and many older users. They are still talking about not having the card catalog. This is what happens when we try to mandate the use of technologies.
Libraries cannot, however, be blind to present or upcoming consumer driven trends in technology. The mp3 (or other similar digital audio formats*) certainly falls within this category. EBook readers were never heavily featured in the adverts from every consumer electronics store. There were some, but nowhere near how mp3 players are being featured. People are using this technology. The audiobook (in tape and CD format) is already proven as viable and necessary format for libraries to circulate.
These facts indicate that exploring books on mp3 as a format isn’t that risky. Certainly the technology will mature a bit more, but the biggest changes will be the pricing, DRM, circulation, and download models that are available to libraries.
If you think your administration might be resistant to the idea of books on mp3 at your library, and you think that your community would use the format, perhaps some of these thoughts can help you convince them otherwise.
**For instance: .wav, .aac, .ogg, .wma, .shn, .ape. It is not crucial to know how these all differ, but it is important to realize that an mp3 file extention (.mp3) isn’t the only type of digitial audio format going around.