Here's your must-read article for the day: PC's role in Japan diminishing
The Japanese, who have been trend leaders in the electronics world for 25 years, are turning more and more to cell phones, gaming stations, TVs -- and less and less to the personal computer.
More than 50 percent of Japanese send e-mail and browse the Internet from their mobile phones, according to a 2006 survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The same survey found that 30 percent of people with e-mail on their phones used PC-based e-mail less, including 4 percent who said they had stopped sending e-mails from PCs completely.
Wow. If this doesn't have implications for the future of library service, I don't know what does.
I have Verizon (they're one of 2 or 3 companies with coverage in the rural area where I work), and I use their web browser service. I've read news, checked email, and checked my to-do list from my phone. I don't do it a lot because my screen is so small, but I'm hoping to change that in a couple of months when it's time to re-up my contract. I'm looking for a phone that makes it easier to text and type short email messages -- hopefully something with a qwerty keyboard. Like this little Samsung.
And no, I'm not getting an iPhone. AT&T doesn't come out here where I work. Or else I'd think about it.
But Amazon has a phone-friendly site. So does LibraryThing. Can it really be that hard to do?
Library software is a niche market, and we get tied into providers because we invest a lot of time and money into their systems. Everything from our cataloging to our circulation records are held hostage by our provider. Oh, sure, you can extract the data -- but it never comes out quite right, and never transfers to the new provider without some problems. And when you're talking a consortium of 40+ libraries and millions of records, well, no one really wants to even suggest it. I'm trying to imagine the reaction if I stood up at our next shared catalog group meeting and said "by the way, provider X doesn't do RSS feeds or have a mobile-friendly interface, I think we ought to switch to provider Y next month."
Some people would probably faint dead away. And then we'd get into a big argument about how libraries don't NEED RSS feeds or mobile browsers, no, we need... oh, I don't know. Something else. More digitization of local history collections (choke cough hack). And hey, those features are in the next release anyway (sigh).
Going stand-alone isn't appealing, either. Sure, we could maybe get the catalog we want (if we can afford it), but we lose the consortium. My patrons have to click two or three times to get through to a second, bigger catalog, and then search again. We love the shared catalog here. Giving that up would be like cutting off an arm.
I don't know I don't know. I've been thinking about the alternatives a lot lately, though. My area in particular has plenty of cell phone access, but not so good access to high-speed Internet. I can see my population going the route of the savvy Japanese even faster than bigger urban areas with abundant communication infrastructure. And we want to take that road with them, if that's where they're headed.