Amazon Unlimited

Last week, Amazon launched their new Kindle Unlimited service—$10 a month for unlimited ebook & e-audiobook loans direct through Amazon.

American Libraries Magazine wrote a reaction piece about it:

  • Amazon Unlimited by James LaRue (posted on American Libraries on July 18, 2014)

And Forbes posted this deliberately provocative op-ed piece:

A Google search turns up many more blogs and opinion pieces from librarians reacting to this. As one might expect, the Forbes post generated a tremendous hue-and-cry.
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Google’s New Material Design Philosophy

Recently, a coworker—knowing my fascination with UX and design philosophy—sent me a link to the following article:

Material world: how Google discovered what software is made of by Dieter Bohn (posted on The Verge on June 27, 2014)

Subtitled, “The next era of Google design is about software as substance,” it presents an intriguing take on where Google is heading in terms of their overarching design philosophy.

I love knowing that they’re thinking in terms of designing for how the human brain actually works—we need to be able to create mental models of our environment in order to fully function within it. That’s a psychological and neurological truth that’s been sorely neglected in the history of computer technology to date.

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The Value & Purpose of Public Libraries

Frank Nero presents one of the best arguments in favor of public library investment I’ve read:

My view by Frank Nero: Libraries are a crucial investment in children, education, community by Frank Nero (posted on the Miami Herald on June 29, 2014)

In addition to the compelling numbers associated with the economic impact of libraries in a community, he offers powerful statements about the value and purpose of libraries.

On education and early literacy:

[E]arly exposure to books and reading is a critical determinant in a child’s academic success, and the independent research skills that libraries foster are both an essential ingredient in academic success and lifelong learning.

Public libraries have always been the gateway to education for preschool children and have always played a major role in supporting formal education.

And this perfectly sums up an argument that I frequently make about the role of libraries in the Digital Age:

The physical space that libraries have is a real asset that shouldn’t be ignored during this era of transition to all things digital. Libraries are community centers where people come and access the resources they need to do whatever they need to do. That may be for schoolwork, it may be to apply for a job or unemployment benefits, or it may be to run a business. Libraries can be the span to help bridge the digital divide.

The success of libraries in the future may have a lot to do with how flexible they can be in adapting to the needs of the community, but even so, the core mission of libraries remains the same. Its traditional role has always been as a community resource for information and referral – it’s just that technology is changing how it does that. We must recognize that libraries are not just a collection of books, but a collection of experiences and opportunities.

I’d like to see Mr. Nero’s op-ed piece shared as widely as possible.

The Real Challenge of the Digital Divide

This article raises an essential point about efforts to overcome the Digital Divide:

Technology Is Making Achievement Gaps Bigger by Annie Murphy Paul (posted on The Brilliant Blog on June 25, 2014)

The real issue we face when we address the Digital Divide isn’t access to technology.

The real issue is digital literacy.

Our most important task isn’t merely to provide access to technology. We also have to teach people how to use it effectively and safely. People who don’t have the opportunity to use technology on a regular basis also don’t have an opportunity to develop effective digital skills. To quote the article above:

Not only are affluent kids more likely to know how to Google; they’re more likely to know what to Google for.

More than that—digital literacy is about teaching people why technology matters, how it can help to make their lives better. People who have gotten along without technology so far may not always recognize why access to it matters now.

It does no good to hand technology to someone who has no idea how to use it. Any attempt to overcome the Digital Divide must go hand-in-hand with digital literacy education and development.