Saturday, April 30, 2011

Paid searches (or how Google keeps us from curing cancer)?

Josh Hadro
Josh Hadro had a great blog post yesterday entitled "How Much Would You Pay to Search for the Royal Wedding Guest List?" This sparked what was going to be a little comment, but turned into a small rant. I'm not even sure if I believe myself 100%, or agree with myself 100% might be more accurate, but I do know that I definitely feel this way and it makes sense on the surface.

First, isn't paying for search exactly what libraries used to offer patrons- you know, back before the ubiquity of home internet? People were willing to pay for it then, but few, and they dropped it pretty quickly as soon as a free competitor was out there. As it is, people typically refuse to go get something that’s behind a pay-wall unless it’s the only option or they’re already going to subscribe anyway.Does the NYT really think it's all that different?
Why would search be any different? Unless Google (or some other company, to be fair) has some type of proprietary control over a subject and all related information, free searches will never disappear. Someone will always do it a little cheaper, with a few more ads, etc.

Second, did they quantify the tangential information gleaned during a physical book search- such as finding out a fact that was only slightly related at the time but added to the searchers' overall knowledge with a potential to use later? THIS, I believe, is the benefit of a less direct search. I found this online, what cool logos would I have found if I had to actually search with my brain and time?
It's the accidental discovery that we are losing- and it will hurt in the long run. These discoveries change the course of research. They change conclusions we draw. This is why library co-location vs. bookstore grouping makes more sense to me too, from a “for the good of man” kind of way. Do you get that with a targeted search? This is missing, especially if you’re really good at searching. The better search engines get at brining you back what you really want to see, the less there will be this cross pollination of information. I am sad about this.

Unfortunately, this is almost impossible to quantify. When you could it would have to be retrospective and anecdotal, so the data wouldn’t allow you to draw any quality conclusions anyway.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ebooks by Subscription

I recently upgraded phones. I now, as you might have guessed from my last micropost, have a smartphone. I noticed that this phone, had I not signed a contract with my wireless provider, would have cost in the neighborhood of $600. Yep, so far I think Windows Phone 7 is pretty freakin' awesome.
Instead, I paid next to nothing because they know they will recoup all costs over the course of the next couple of years of our relationship. That's great for me and it works for them. (I'm assuming it works for them because they keep on doing it!)

This isn't new. Anyone remember when ISPs did this? I do. Don't worry, my credit recovered and is GREAT now.
I got a Compaq with a DVDRom and a good chunk of memory for a great discount because I promised to pay Prodigy $25 a month for dial up internet back in the very late 90s. I also dropped Prodigy after a few months and went to Netzero because I was a poor teenager with no concept of credit. It didn't work for them.

However, this got me thinking. Why doesn't some company, such as Amazon with their Kindle, do something like this? Why don't they offer a free Kindle with the agreement to purchase so many e-books/magazines a month from I mean, is that too much like Columbia House Records giving you a free MP3 player with you purchase 2 albums a month at regular club prices?Yep, pretty sure my brother and I got a few No, I don't think so. This could be a boon to (e)readership everywhere. Things would get purchased and read that wouldn't be otherwise. The provider would benefit just as much as the phone companies do. I wonder if they just don't need to. I mean, sure THESE GUYS do (or do they still- update your site people) it, but their catalog is limited and suspect (read: crappy). Amazon, Barnes and Noble, I'm looking at you kids to take this to the next level.

What does this have to do with libraries? Well, with better ereaders, people can check out our digital collection more. There.