Sunday, 18 March 2012

Painting go faster stripes on the titanic

OCC (Oxfordshire County Council) have introduced e-books with a initial spend of £43,560 and a annual cost of £35,598 while cutting 25% out of the library budget partially by withdrawing up to 50% of staff funding rural libraries (and one city).

They are also spending £150,074 (estimate) putting wifi in every one of the libraries.

70 people have written and asked for e-books, anecdotally they say lots of people have asked verbally too.  70 out of 680,000.

The wifi is pointless because there is already decent private provision of wifi by bt-openzone and others in cities. You can go to most places in cities and pick up a wireless signal these days. In rural libraries its even more pointless, people come into the libraries to use the computers. They are hardly going to use their own laptops in the rural libraries when if they own a laptop its almost certain they have broadband at home. Of course for smart phone users we have 3g anyway and I don't go into my library to sit on my smart phone.

They have also started providing audio books as a download service. I don't have costs for this though. 

The technology for the audio books and ebooks is actually quite good and I think in the future it will be good. The problems are:

  1. Ebooks wont work on kindle due to licencing issues.
  2. The audio books won't work on any smart phone and some ipods because of the drm in use.
  3. The choice isn't great in either ebooks or audiobooks.

I remember chatting to the acting chief librarian about ebooks last year and I told her that it was too early to spend money on this because of the licensing issue and the format wars going on between the major players. Obviously the content has to be protected with some sort of DRM (digital rights management) but this clearly fell on deaf ears.

They are cutting 13.5k from our library staffing but in exchange we get:

  1. To run it ourselves by managing the volunteers with all the costs involved. (see previous blogs, it doesn't actually save any money)
  2. Ebooks nobody wants or that most cannot currently use
  3. Audio books that only people with old fashioned mp3 players can use
  4. Wifi that is pointless and unnecessary.
  5. Self service machines that we don't need in a small rural library

They would saved lots of money if they had put the ebooks/audio books/wifi on the back burner for a few years until things settle down and all the major parties can get their heads together and agree on proper standards, it can them be available to all rather than to select devices. 

This isn't the public sector way though, evidence of effectiveness, demand or need mean nothing. Its new and shiny therefore we must have it now.


link to the foi:

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