On Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen linked to this page with pictures of some extravagant public libraries.
While these libraries are beautiful, I think they also demonstrate the careless spending that takes place when bureaucrats get a hold of other people’s money.
It reminds me of this post of mine where I eventually get around to suggesting that if libraries were not paid for by third parties through tax dollars and donations, we would likely still have libraries, but they’d look less like jobs programs for architects and artists and more like Blockbuster, Netflix and Redbox.
I’m sure all of these libraries have fans who can’t imagine the world without them, but it’s easy to treasure something that you didn’t pay for directly. If these folks were asked to cover the cost of the library, few would.
My local library reports that one reason their ebook selection is low is because four out of the “Big Six” publishers do not allow libraries to purchase their ebooks and the other two either have restrictive purchase policies are charge libraries more for ebooks.
In other words, these publishers are acting like Blockbuster in the early days of Netflix.
Change is a bear. I understand wanting to cling on to profits from your traditional business model as long as possible. But, just as Blockbuster learned, it works out better to be the change agent than the stick-in-the-mud.
With seemingly self-inflicted stumble of Netflix last week, I thought I would mention that my local Blockbuster store seems busier lately.
Their 99-cent pricing for non-new releases seems to be bringing in traffic.
I’ve posted recently about my late adoption of Blockbuster’s online business model, about my satisfaction with my local library and about Apple’s iPad vs. Amazon’s Kindle.
The thought occurred to me this morning that these are all on a crash course and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Here are some thoughts on what might happen:
1) Libraries begin to offer media checkouts for the iPad, Kindle, etc. that can be handled online. Mine already does this with audiobooks, so there’s some precedent for this.
2) Amazon, or other online sites, will begin offering a subscription service like Blockbuster Online/Netflix. For a monthly fee you get to have two to three books checked out to your reading device at a time.
3) Long-term: Libraries will not need as much space to hold books. They will struggle for relevance. Some will figure out other creative ways of using the space. My library already offers story times, book clubs, entertainment for children, internet access, classes and lectures. Maybe they’ll expand these types of offerings and become more of a hub for community education and activities.