Saturday, January 22, 2011

Midnight Cowboy

Last night I watched Midnight Cowboy for the first time in many years. I wasn't allowed to see it when it was released in 1969. I was only 13, and it was considered scandalous and was issued an X rating by the MPAA.(It seems rather tame by today's standards.) In spite of that, it went on to win the Academy Award as Best Picture. It established the career of Jon Voight and made him a star, and it was Dustin Hoffman's first movie after The Graduate. Today it is considered a groundbreaking film and a classic. The Library's DVD edition includes interviews with the cast and producers. Watch it again or for the first time. The performances by Hoffman and Voight are powerful and moving.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

As recently as last week, I thought I was done with this blog. I never seemed to have time to post (as you can see since the last post was more than 3 years ago!), and it seemed to have been replaced by our Twitter and Facebook pages. But as I learned when we started our Facebook page recently, Facebook limits your posts to about 400 characters. So this blog might still be useful when I want to write something a little longer.

At a meeting of public librarians last week, it became apparent that many of us have a love/hate relationship with many of the technologies we are offering these days, especially eBooks and downloadable audio books. There are many issues that make it really difficult to satisfy our patrons. Availability is a big one. While patrons are willing to put their name on a waiting list for a new print book or book on cd that is in demand, they seem to want the digital version to be available immediately. Yet most companies that offer the services only allow one person at a time to checkout a title. One colleague at the meeting was bemoaning the fact that as she tried to get a patron excited about checking out an eBook, she couldn't find any titles that were available. (One company does offer always available downloadable audio books, but they are mostly older titles and not the latest bestsellers that people want to read now.) The number of people who own eBook readers is increasing rapidly, and most of us can't afford to buy every book we want to read on our Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, iPad, etc. The demand for free eBooks from the public library is going to keep climbing, and availability will become even more of an issue if the single user system remains the norm.

Another big issue is compatibility. Because of Digital Rights Management, many downloadable audio books are not compatible with iPods, and they only work on certain models of mp3 players. We get lots of calls from patrons who have downloaded audio books and can't get them to play. With eBooks, the publishing industry hasn't completely come to terms with the technology yet so some publishers will not publish their titles in digital format. Amazon will not allow it's titles to be downloaded to any device except its own Kindle unless it is through their own Kindle app, and eBooks downloaded in .pdf format do not display well on some devices. Some libraries are buying eBook readers and lending them out. But deciding how that will work is also difficult. Do we buy the eBooks that the patrons request when they check the devices out, or do we preload them with titles selected by the library staff?

It's going to take some time to resolve all these issues, and most libraries are struggling just to keep our eBook and downloadable audio book collections going while our budgets are shrinking. Here at the Lyme Library, we offer downloadable audio books and are hoping to offer eBooks sometime this year. Much depends on whether the funding is available. In the meantime, we'd like to hear from our patrons. Do you prefer eBooks or audio books? What do you like best about them and what frustrates you? What percentage of your reading is done by audio or an electronic device? The answers will help us determine which programs our patrons will use and benefit from the most.