The shock of the Lou - Lewisham plans free ebook service

Rachel: Maybe Joey's right. Maybe all good deeds are selfish. 
Phoebe: I will find a selfless good deed. 'Cause I just gave birth to three children and I will not let them be raised in a world where Joey is right.
- Friends

The recent news that book lending rates had fallen in Lewisham's community-run libraries prompted an interesting discussion about some of the possible underlying causes, but also an intervention by BC regular, Lou Baker, who suggested that most of the borough's libraries could be done without, if we equipped residents with eReaders:

"£4.6m would buy more than 50,000 Kindles. 20% of the borough's residents could be given one - and they could access tens of thousands of e-books without additional charges.

"The libraries could then mostly be shut down - save for one big central library - saving further cash next year, enabling more residents to benefit from an ebook reader. Would ultimately be cheaper, more convenient and better."

You can read the debate here.

Another BC regular, Monkeyboy, forwarded us a recent tweet by Cllr Mike Harris, who reveals that Lou had stumbled dangerously close to a good idea. Cllr Harris says:

"Wow: Lewisham Council to launch e-book app with access on your phone to books / plays such as the entire works of Shakespeare."

So the libraries will stay open, but eBooks will become more easily available. The devil's in the the detail, but as long as this is a low-cost idea, we can see only upside.

Happily for our sanity, the plan is closer to what we suggested in the debate as a way to broaden access:

"How about the government negotiating a reading list for the people each year - paying copyright owners a fixed sum for UK residents to be able to download certain books each year for free. A bit Reithian, but nothing wrong with that."

Normal service is resumed.

By the by, in our day job, BC has been doing some work with The Economist to analyse what the impact of tablets and eReaders will be on print. You can read the presentation below, but in the near future, handheld digital devices will replace print as the dominant way to read (for those with access to the devices). So one way or another, Lou is right that libraries will need to adapt. Fast.

More on the Lewisham plan soon.


Geegerific said...

I have no problem with ereaders but they can't replace libraries. Browsing for books via ereader is impossible unless you already know what you want.

SamB_UK said...

It sounds like the app would allow users to works like Shakespeare for free - i.e. out of copyright works. Which you can do now for free on the Kindle (and other e-reading devices).

If that's all it is, I don't see how it's adding any value, beyond giving people another option.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, if that's all it is. I assume it isn't, because that would be a complete waste of time. We shall see! :)

Monkeyboy said...

I'm packing my bags and moving to North Korea. I'm clearly not appreciated here.

Anonymous said...

In North Korea do they have e-woks or is that China?

Ian on the Hill said...

As an ex-librarian I have to say that some of the joy and extra quality of life libraries impart is intrinsically wrapped up in the experience of browsing, of finding books you would never have thought to look for, in exploring new things, talking to other users and knowledgable librarians, and - it has to be said - the sight, smell and odour of intellectual sanctity that has been known to change the lives of impressionable youngsters.

Ask a librarian how they feel about 'rocking the books to bed'. I wonder how many out there know about that little secret.

I;m far from a luddite, but dead screens are not books.

For me a library is still a secular temple of rationality. Not an internet cafe.

Brockley Nick said...


"For me a library is still a secular temple of rationality. Not an internet cafe."

Agree with that and yes, books can be nice objects (equally they can be mouldy, torn, have penises drawn on them, etc), but I think we need to be careful not to equate the library experience with physical books.

Libraries are about lots of other things - discovery, quiet, research, community, etc.

How essential is paper for any of these things?

A non-Luddite rationalist would be happy to ask those questions.

mb said...

While I pack my copy of Das Kapital and book my Tupalev flight to N Korea can i just say that Kindles are great, as is the access to many (but not, by any stretch of the imagination, all) out of copyright titles for free or a nominal sum.

The millions of titles that are in copyright and have a fee attached will be unavailble, not a minor point. This may be useful but is not a replacement to access to current works that libraries provide. I'm sure some boffins are working somewhere on finding a way of managing the 'lending' of current works and the publishers getting their fee (from individuals or public bodies)until that is resolved old fashioned libraries serve a purpose.

Also, don't underestimate peoples ability to addapt. Many people want to own or listen to music on a physical medium. Hundreads of millions are happy with iTunes and Spotify.

Tamsin said...

Interesting presentation and an interesting question about the long view, historical research and archive materials. Currently with hard copies (some very hard, clay tablets can be read if you understand "Babylonic cuniform" after millenia) this isn't an issue. But isn't it the case that some electronic stuff from mere decades ago is inaccessible because it is hasn't been regularly updated to maintain compatiblity?

John Reader said...

@ Brockley Nick
"Libraries are about lots of other things - discovery, quiet, research, community, etc."

I wouldnt go to the grim Lewi Central library for any of that it is a mildly depressing place, not sure about other libraries in the borough. When I get my kindle from father christmas I doubt I will step into a library in the borough again. I personally think that printed books are dead, the kindle is the future and books in copywrite have already started to go the same way as the illegal downloading of music albums in the early noughties. You can get many copywrited books for free online at torrent sites I am told. In the future not only will the author sell their books they will sell their personalities as well, doing book events etc etc as profits from printed and e books fall due to illegal downloading.

Anonymous said...

"You can get many copywrited books for free online at torrent sites I am told." That's right. Then you can steal them.

max said...

Give someone the complete Lou's philosophy on a kindle this Christmas.
Alternatively just tell them to get a job. That's the analog version.

Lou Baker said...

Great news Lewisham are considering this idea - it has the potential to save money AND improve services.

It is important to note that a key part of my argument was that such a service should only be introduced alongside dramatic improvements to the borough's central library.

These can be paid for by shutting all the rest of the libraries which are - frankly - pretty poor.


Yes. I think everyone who can work should work. In tricky economic times that will mean some people are doing jobs they are way over qualified for. But no job has to be forever and any job is better than no job.

I don't understand your objection to the concept that everyone should have do their fair share. Obviously some will be able to contribute more than others - but virtually everyone should be expected to contribute something.

The role of state benefits should be to provide proper support to people while they need help. Benefits should not be a permanent lifestyle choice - as you seem to desire.

Mb said...

"I don't understand your objection to the concept that everyone should have do their fair share. Obviously some will be able to contribute more than others - but virtually everyone should be expected to contribute something."

That is the 1940 post war settlement right there. A student of beveridge, old labour! I knew it, you old dog. I'm sure you can get a copy free on kindle.

Transpontine said...

On this day of all days shouldn't you be quoting the Holiday Armadillo sketch?

More seriously libraries aren't just about borrowing books, they are one of the view indoor social spaces where people can go without having to buy something. Peckham library for instance is always packed - with people studying hard, many of whom don't have space at home to do that.

Transpontine said...

@ 'That is the 1940 post war settlement right there. A student of beveridge, old labour'

Or as somebody else said: 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs' (Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme)

max said...

Where can you read an objection there Lou? It was a very fair summary of your core beliefs, wasn't it?

Mb said...

@transpontine, don't start him off. He gets indigestion.

max said...

And sorry, the news is that the Council is launching an "app" - not giving free kindles to people - I think that this by itself doesn't really go towards Lou's vision to close the small libraries to make savings to invest in one central library.

One could even argue that if people read more, whether on kindle or in any other way, they may on the whole be more likely to visit a library, even just to find the necessary quiet environment to enjoy reading (or study).

By the way, I like paper, I still think that one enjoys a book on paper more than an electronic one (although magazines may well be just as if not more enjoyable as an app).
And as one that reads lots of comics there's really no electronic substitute. I just bought the complete Hellboy on hardback even if I already have much of it on paperback.

Lou Baker said...

@ max

Why am I not surprised you read comics? I guess pictures are easier for you to understand than words?

Anyway whether it's by ap or e-reader - ebooks are the way forward for the library service. Libraries should not have to stock every book that's ever been published. They should have a wide choice but not an unlimited choice. If you find the hundreds of thousands of texts on offer too limiting, you can always buy more.

@ transpontine

Indeed there is more to libraries than borrowing books. Which is why one decent central library which does all those extra things is an essential. In a small borough that central library isn't that far away from anyone.

That's a much better solution than 11 crappy libraries with barely adequate facilities which are closed half the time anyway. The word has moved on - the library system needs to move with it.

max said...

Lou, comics have words, and pictures, and you must be able to read the two together. It's a specific kind of literacy.

Jeremy Clarkson said...

Tell him Lou, together we can make room temperature the new entry level for MENSA

Mb said...

Lou, libraries don't stock them, the "share" the resource. They are also not limited to texts published 70 years after an authors death. The app is a harmless idea, e readers could work. The fact that if you are 14 and have no money so cannot borrow a book written for 70+ years cold be seen as a problem.

Lou Baker said...


Indeed. Which is why there will still be a fully stocked central library.

Do you have another point?

Mb said...

Nope, that's all thanks. I just misunderstood your point

"Libraries should not have to stock every book that's ever been published. They should have a wide choice but not an unlimited choice. If you find the hundreds of thousands of texts on offer too limiting, you can always buy more."

This is great, I'm soaking up your wisdom like a discarded sock in the changing room.

Lou Baker said...

You think every book ever published should be available for the scuzzy folk of Bellingham?

What about the really really valuable books - hundreds of years old, of which there is just one copy left?

You reckon that should go to a Deptford tower block?

There has to be a limit somewhere. Hundreds of thousands of books will be available to all. If from that giant selection your taste is not satisfied you could always buy one of the missing titles. If you can't afford it - tough. Pick
one of the others from the choice of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer subsidised titles on offer.

Anonymous said...

Borkcley Nick said: "Libraries are about lots of other things - discovery, quiet, research, community, etc."

Library, from librarius, Latin meaning: of books.

A library is about books. It might be quiet, it might be for discovery or research (or just lending) but it is really all about books.

Tamsin said...

Ian, can I ask you, as an ex-librarian, about "rocking the books to bed". Sounds a bit like Stanley reading the rules and regulations to the whispering letters to calm them...

Mb said...

Lou, there are "copies" available. I'm not talking about an origin of species 1st edition. Nice crack at the scum in Bellingham. Once again you reveal your snobbery and disgust for these at the bottom of the pile. You really do save everyone the trouble of pointing out how unpleasant you are.

Mb said...

..... And exactly. If you can't afford a book in print tough. That underlines your attitude perfectly.

Brockley Nick said...

Anon 2335 - And "book" is derived from the "Old English "bōc" which itself comes from the Germanic root "*bōk-", cognate to beech.[2] Similarly, in Slavic languages (for example, Russian, Bulgarian) "буква" (bukva—"letter") is cognate with "beech". In Russian and in Serbian, another Slavic language, the words "букварь" (bukvar') and "буквар" (bukvar), respectively, refer specifically to a primary school textbook that helps young children master the techniques of reading and writing."

So books are only books if carved from beech and / or aimed at primary school children. Because words' meanings are fixed by their origins.

Look, I agree that "books" are a core function of a library. I'm just saying that a) there is more to libraries than that and b) paper are not the only type of book any more. If part of your core function can be delivered in an entirely new way - so that books can be distributed instantly, freely and infinitely - then you should adapt to that fact.

Instead of devoting all its storage space to paper books, a library in an ebook age can devote more space to displaying books, explaining why readers should try a particular book or helping people to find the best books in a similar theme.

A library that can check books in and out automatically, digitally, frees up a librarian to do other things. Librarians didn't become librarians because of their love of administration, they became librarians because of their love of reading. The digital age frees librarians up to become curators and evangelists for great books or to organise more events that will draw more people in to the library, at the heart of the community.

Or, you can ignore the greatest technological shift to effect books since the printing press and just carry on doing things exactly the same way you always have.

Here's a thought said...

Quick genuine question. Is the publishing industry going to go down the pan with the popularity of ebooks in the same way the music industry has suffered with mp3s?

Brockley Nick said...

@Here's: Yes, I mean it already is experiencing many similar issues. But the music industry hasn't ceased to be. It's just changed. The news industry hasn't ceased to be because of the relative decline of the newspaper industry, it's just changed. The same is / will be true with publishing.

If you read the Economist presentation, the thesis is that eReaders / tablets are leading a renaissance in reading. For that matter, thanks to digital music, I suspect we listen to far more music than we ever have done in the past.

patrick1971 said...

Yes indeed, every train journey is now like being in a nightclub thanks to idiots listening to more music than they ever have before and the total inability of headphone/earpiece manufacturers to come up with a model that works.

Kindles not iPods!

D said...

Tamsin - I totally agree with your point yesterday about digital material being unreadable after a matter of years. This is one of my main concerns with the digital future that we've been thrown into. There will be no historical records that any of us were ever here because life has become so disposable. The amount of useful information that will be lost forever, buried away on disk drives is staggering.

I guess that will become less of an issue with time though, as soon nobody will be able to string a sentence together anyway as they'll only be able to cope with typing 140 characters into a box.

Brockley Nick said...

@Tamsin, D: Yes, it's true that digital data can be lost (although stuff that's sitting around on out of date disks can always be retrieved, if you want it badly enough.

I'm not sure this is a problem unique to digital formats though. The Library of Alexandria burned down, the BBC wiped most of the stuff it recorded between the 1930s and 1950s in order to reuse the tapes.

That's why you need archivists, to make sure that the stuff that really matters is kept safe.

What is unique to the digital age is the sheer volume of stuff that's being produced.

Internet-based repositories like Wikipedia and YouTube, married with search technologies like Google and Autonomy (client) provide a pretty good solution, unless someone pulls the plug on them...

Brockley Nick said...

After all, if you can go to the trouble to dig up and decipher ancient tablets, you can find, repair or build a device to read 3.5 inch floppies.

D said...

That last 'unless someone pulls the plug' is the problem. Obviously there is no way Google will even exist in 50 years time, let alone 5000.

The other part of the problem with digital data (and things like tapes as you mention) is that the information isn't immediately visible. The beauty of words written on paper is that there is always a chance, however small, that at some point in the future someone will see it and work out how to read it.

Anonymous said...

A good friend of mine lives in Tower Hamlets, where you can already download a book, for a limited time, onto your kindle/e-reader/iphone/ipad, etc. You have the copy for a limited time, but don't need to go to a physical place to get the book. It can also recommend more books to you, based on the books you have read – a bit like what Amazon does. What's the problem here? Sounds like a great service to me. You don't have to wait ages for a popular book to come back before you get to read it, you don't have to pay late fees, you could probably search for and find it easier than browsing books by genre or using the dewey-decimal system.

Tower Hamlets, in my opinion, has done a pretty good job at overhauling their libraries. I'm not a fan of calling them "idea stores" but when I worked in the area the library was always busy, a lot bigger than any other library I went to, had more books and facilities and space for quiet study time. People from all parts of the community used them, not just the very old or the very young, which is what I find with other libraries I've been into.

Anecdotally, I was a dinner with someone who works in publishing and they told me sales poem anthologies were higher than they had ever been and people were reading then on Kindles and other e-readers.

I don't think books will suffer the way music has. Music is easily copyable, already a data file. You can't really do that with a paper book (unless you want to scan all the pages). The publishing industry seems like it has the correct sort of rights management issues so that e-reader files can't be copied and distributed the same way that music files can. Maybe that's what they learned from music piracy.

So agree with those that say libraries should adapt. Or at least they shouldn’t be afraid of adapting.

Brockley Nick said...

All companies fail over a long enough time horizon, so yes, Google et al will one day disappear. But that doesn't mean the data on the servers will. Someone or something else will come along and make use of it. Or government institutions will take it into public ownership. The British Library is already archiving a great many websites, so that the information is not lost.

As for the visibility point - highly debatable. Paper gets lost, or burnt, or thrown away, or buried under tonnes of other paper, or forgotten.

Which is easier, retrieving something from the stack at the Bodleian Library or searching a digitised archive?

We all have more knowledge at our fingertips today than the luckiest academics in history ever had to play with.

Digital information is an absolute, life-transforming miracle and we must keep pinching ourselves, so as not to take it for granted.

Anonymous said...

Libraries are not just for borrowing and reading books but are also meeting places for people and are also at the heart of a community. Useful places for people to study or research and if one needs a quiet space to learn new things. The library staff can also recommend good books and in a childrens library kids can meet friends and share their enjoyment of books together and not alone!

E-readers do not provide social interaction or a meeting place, they are just useful portable gadgets for long journeys and for carrying lots of books in one small device. E-readers also require regular maintenance as it is designed to have a shelf life.

E-readers are handy devices but certainly not a substitute for a Library!

This is not a good idea, keep as many British Libraries as possible! Merge the smaller ones and encourage people to go to them. Offer an e-reader service as part of its facilities especially for the reference library (ie. books that cannot be loaned as they are too old/rare) but do not make it a substitute!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Libraries are places for people!

Reading is a social activity as well!

Save our libraries!

Tamsin said...

"E-readers do not provide social interaction or a meeting place"

Another tub I regularly thump is the issue of interacting with children in your care from the time that they are tiny babies. (Won't talk about mobile phones here...)

Libraries and book-shops are a better vehicle for talking about books and choosing them with children. Not so easy to cuddle up for a bed-time (or anytime) story with a toddler and a kindle - a nice big storybook with nice big pictures is what fills that need. A year or so older, indeed, have the child next to you and teach them the way about an i-Pad - sooming in and flicking pages or whatever.

geek said...

absoultly. The internet and the rest is so impersonal. We should debate the merits of libraries face to face. When shall we meet? Where shall we meet? how big a room will we need? You see where I'm going with this...

The idea that the internet is 'impersonal' is a little simplistic. There is a generation growing up now that have never known a home without a broadband connection. This conversation will seem bizzare in 20 years time.

Some day soon a decent internet connenction will be seen as a basic requirement for a civilised society, along with water, shelter and power. Information access piped into everyhome as a right not a luxury. Thats an aspiration worth looking at.

Tamsin said...

Agreed - and it's wonderful the way places like India and Africa have been able to leap-frog the tedious land-line technology.

But it doesn't alter the fact that babies learn to talk through human feed-back, eye-contact and repetition/correction of their babbling phase - whatever language they "speak". There is the case of concerned, articulate, caring deaf-mute parents with a hearing child hoping that carefully chosen TV would fill the gap. Signing was fine - vague gestures interpreted modified and responded to, but speech side of things was a real problem.

Dan Monk said...

You can already do this with Lewisham Library and, I think, All libraries nationwide.

There is an iphone app called Overdrive that allows you to log on to your local library's website and 'borrow' ebooks for one or two weeks. If someone else has that ebook checked out you cant borrow it. It works exactly the same way as the library's physical book lending system.

you can also download out of copyright titles too.

Anonymous said...

Just because this conversation might seem bizarre in 20 yrs time doesn't make it invalid now.

Brockley Nick said...


"But it doesn't alter the fact that babies learn to talk through human feed-back, eye-contact and repetition/correction of their babbling phase - whatever language they "speak"."

Sure, but I don't think anyone is proposing ebooks as an alternative to all human contact or parental care. Except possibly Lou.

D said...

Throughout history people have looked to technology (whether its fire, the wheel or an xray machine) to make their lives better. I now think we're reaching the point where it is mainly being used to make us more lazy. For the future of mankind that should be a terrifying thought, but nobody seems to care.

Brockley Nick said...

@Dan - interesting, thanks. Perhaps they're planning to roll it out to all libraries in the borough?

Brockley Nick said...

@D - fire, the wheel or the x-ray did make our lives enormously better.

You could also say that they made us "lazier" since cooked food is easier to eat, heavy loads are more easily wheeled about and x-rays are a handy and time saving alternative to being slit open.

The internet makes our lives better and "lazier" in the sense that a great many things are now easier.

But what have we done with all that time we've saved with fire and the internet? Sat on our arses? A bit. Nothing wrong with watching telly with the time saved by the invention of the vacuum cleaner, but more to the point, we don't just sit around.

We use the power of the internet to learn new things, discover new books, films and music and argue the toss about the future of libraries with people we would never have previously spoken to.

Tamsin said...

@ Nick Geek seemed to specifically say he was going that way.

The social disconnect in modern life is slightly worrying, and (I will mention mobile phones) the appalling and belitting message given to small children out and about with their parents/carers talking to someone the child cannot even see is cause for grave concern.

However I do think the corner has perhaps turned. With the more modern games you are encouraged to connect with other humans, often in the same physical space, through and facilitated by the machine. The days of lonely people in lonely rooms hunched over a small computer screen are passing if not over.

And the point was made in the presentation you linked to - "lean back" now not "lean forward" - and you can pass the device with the magazine page "open" for someone seated nearby to look at in almost the same way as you could a paper magazine.

Mb said...

@D... yes everything is going to pot (?!)

A bit of a bleak response. Assuming you have the money, and while libraries still allow everyone access to current titles, I can commend Steven Pinker’s “Better Angels of Our Nature”

In many, perhaps most, measurable ways life is better now.

By the way, did that technology invented only a few centuries ago make life worse? Did it increase ignorance? I'm talking movable type and the printing press. You can't judge it a failure because it enables Jeremy Clarksons musings to be available to everyone, prior to it being pulped and turned into bog roll. Same argument applies for the interweb and associated information tranfer mediums.

Tamsin said...

The Reformation and the Thirty Years War...? The man in the field and the workshop was probably happier with his relatively simple view on life in the 14th Century than having hell-fire preached at him from both Catholic and Calvinist in the 17th - and his livelihood destroyed by marauding armies into the bargain.

Everything has two sides. Facebook, twitter and allied technologies give a voice and strength to dissenters fighting tyranies world-wide and also facilitate such scenes as the August riots and can call trouble makers to wreck what is planned to be a peaceful protest.

Anonymous said...

yes Tamsin...your point is? ebooks and the interweb have, on balance, increased interaction not reduced it. It's very difficult for a despotic dictator to seal off his population unless he cuts every cable and shuts down every satelite dish. North Korea may be one of the last. It's a little high minded to claim those living a simple life without knowledge or modern technology are or were better off. People choose knowledge over ignorance. Rejoyce!


D said...

@Mb - the printing press made life massively better, largely because it existed at a time when the pace of life was essentially self-regulated. Things moved slowly enough for people to make informed decisions along the way.
Imagine a situation where Gutenberg invented a printing press and then gave one to every single person in the world and let them publish whatever they wanted. We'd be living in a very different world today, and I very much doubt it would be for the better.

mb said...

@D, yes. It made the disemination of information cheaper and quicker. It allowed small groups to print pamplets calling for the vote, it allowed people to print posters calling for lords to be overthrown. It put power in the hands of a section of the popultation that would not have had that exposure. The world is different and better. Of course some poeple used the printing press to incite genocide, most dont. That's people for you.

Tamsin said...

@ Anon. Yes, if you read my post I agree - the internet has in the old cliche given a voice to the voiceless and power to the people - just look at Avaaz and 38 degrees.

And you should have noted that I was comparing the 14th and 17th centuries, not the middle ages and modern times. On the whole times were more troubled - and therefore more potentially catastrophic for the common man - after the invention of the printing press and the easy dissemination of conflicting ideas.

Tamsin said...

@ MB - for the first two or three hundred years printing just enabled one tyranny to more easily replace another. Think what the Parliamentarians in Britain and the Decembrists (?) in France did once the "lords" were overthrown. And it was the ordinary people who suffered every which way.

Sellars and Yeatman were spot on in their dramatised version of "1066 and all That" with its recurring refrain "... except the common people".

mb said...

tamsin, now your being obtuse. you celebrate books but now say we're worse off because the plebs have access to words?

Tamsin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tamsin said...

Well, in part it is fun winding people up.

But I am genuinely saying that until the philanthopists and idealists really got going, until the literacy and the use of books and pamphles was spread widely enough, the benefits you extol (quite rightly) were not felt by the mass of humanity. Any new technology is usually seized upon first by those seeking to obtain or preserve power and influence. The likes of Calvin and Oliver Cromwell first use the opportunities, it is only after a period of settling down - as D said - that you can get the general percolation of more noble ideas from such as Thomas Paine and Jefferson and an idealistic rather than idealogical debate.

Anonymous said...

"We use the power of the internet to learn new things, discover new books, films and music and argue the toss about the future of libraries with people we would never have previously spoken to."

And play daft games where some morons pretend to kill other morons.

"The days of lonely people in lonely rooms hunched over a small computer screen are passing if not over."

They are very much still with us, but now we can be lonely people walking along with our phone as well.

Anonymous said...

Bastards!! *shakes fist*

Lou Baker said...


It's very unfair for you to portray me as someone who doesn't think parents should read to their kids.

I think the exact opposite. Many of society's problems are caused BECAUSE many parents don't read to their kids.

If you read to your kids it helps them to read, which helps them at school, which helps them to learn, which helps them get qualifications, which leads to a job.

I'd wager that a disproportionately small percentage of life long benefit claimants, of long term drug addicts, of criminals, of street muggers, of the homeless come from homes where they were read to every night as kids. I don't know if there are statistics to demonstrate that - but I'd bet it's true.

I want to reiterate that I am not calling for no
libraries. I am calling for BETTER libraries - but fewer of them. I know there is value in all the other facilities libraries provide - and I think one really really good library in a London borough is preferable to 11 not very good ones.

@ monkeyboy

I'm afraid lots of things in life boil down to money. If there is a book you want that the library service does not have - and you can't afford to buy it - then you can't have it. That's not harsh, it's true. Lots of people would like a Ferrari - but even you can't argue the state should provide those. So if you want a Ferrari you have to buy one. And if you can't afford it, well you either have accept that and choose something else or get a better paid job. The principle is the same.

Brockley Nick said...

Oh Lou, it was a little Christmas joke.

Oh, and I agree with your argument that it's better to have fewer, better equipped libraries than to have lots of poorly equipped ones scattered throughout the borough. How's that for goodwill to all men?

However, if we were eliminating one or two local libraries to divert those funds in to bigger better libraries, I'd convert the unused buildings for wider community use, as function spaces, rather than close them.

Mb said...

No Lou, I don't think providing access to books is the same as ferraris on the council. We'll have to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Children need real books not ebooks.

Also most good libraries perform a number of cultural services including: free internet access, free newspaper access, toy lending service, music lending, film lending, a local history archive, a large collection of reference books as well as regular book lending.

Some libraries also provide useful local services information and more recently some are places of multi-use such as birth/death/marriage and civil partnership registration.

They are community spaces for study and learning.

A kindle or e-reader would not provide these things for free.

Keep libraries open!!!

Little Chardonnay said...

God Bless us! Every one!

Anonymous said...

The Dead Sea Scroll are still with us after 2000 years. Think of the hypothetical cost of constantly backing them up onto some sort of digital storage system every 5 years to prevent obsolescence or degradation of the files.

Anonymous said...

It won't happen. The information will be lost. And nobody will build a machine to read old data because the materials on which they are stored will also have degraded beyond that point. Museums are, even now, having to tackle the problem of plastic items degrading to plastic dust and plastics have only been with us for less than a century.

We live in transient times.

Glass half full said...

The dead sea scrolls are only with us because someone stumbled across them. There will be thousands of important tests that have been lost that we dont even know exists. The library at Alexandria was destroyed allong with its contents. If there were millions of copies spread all around the world would may still have them. We've always lived in transient times. I can sit here watching "come dine with me" and pull up the dead sea scrolls plus a translation. If the originals were to be destroyed we'd have a copy. Good init.

Glass half full said...

As you can tell from the spelling and punctuation, I've had most of a bottle of wine. I'm still right though. Merry crimbo etc....

Anonymous said...

The Dead Sea Scrolls amy be only one of millions of documents, the rest of which have gone forever. But they survived.

It is much less likely that any of the hundreds of millions of documents we produce electronically now will be readable in 2,000 years time.

try again pal said...

yes...and the other millions haven't, so print isn't some magic everlasting medium. Millions of pages of stuff we produce will be lost, some won't.

What's your point again? Think I may have missed it.

Anonymous said...

@try again pal ...
Yes you have entirely missed the point. Do try again to understand it.

(Hint: focus in on the ones which will survive, not the ones which are lost.)

No, no ,no.... said...

Yes......what? You assume that stuff that only exists in an eformat will be lost. That's a big assumption. The data does not sit on a single PC somewhere. It's distributed all around the world, a bit like copies of books.

Now of course, if aliens land and wipe us all out except a few bods in. A cave with no broadband you'll be correct.

Like I say, a tiny proportion of works ever published have been lost to humanity. They got lost, burnt or fell apart. Paper isn't magic.

Data can be copied on an instant and searched for effectively. Many a despot has destroyed printing presses and burnt books. Once something is on the net , it's there "forever" or at least until your aliens land.

Yes, yes, yes said...

.when I say "tiny" I mean "loads"

I'm still clearly correct though

Anonymous said...

Commonsense (remember that old-fashioned concept) would dictate that to rely on a new technology that relies on other fragile technologies for its existence and interpretation is daft.

Brockley Nick said...

No one is getting rid of paper. said...

Common Sense, is that "simple ideas are the best" one of those disposable sayings?

Fragile, like paper. I'm simply saying that paper, the written word is not as eternal as you like to think. The fragments of the dead sea scrolls stumbled across by a goat herder would tell you that.

Anonymous said...

My house is littered with disused broken phones and computers, anything left on them (quite a lot) is inaccessible by me, I could pay someone huge amounts of money to resurrect hard drives and extract the information, but its not the same thing as buying a 100 year old book in Deptford Market for 10p and reading it.

Unstoppable Force said...

I ve lost a million old paper diaries, if it was online it would have a better chance of outliving me

We could swap examples all day. There's nothing magic about paper...or film...or.....passing stories through verbal stories that never get written down.

The Internet has given a platform for millions to swap information. Ask the Syrians, Libyans, Egyptians if they would rather have relied on photo copiers to spread their message. We're arguing on here. This silly conversation will be hear for year. It will probably be hear when we're dead. We're in the infancy of the web, google and others have already produced powerful search tools. Who knows what will be there in the future. The British library has copies of book long forgot on about, one day they will be digitised so as a researcher in Peru can pull up a a copy instantly. It's great, it's here and it's hear to stay. The reason why it is so pervasive (it was invented by scientists remember, to make information sharing and collaboration easy remember) is because it's immensely useful. Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

" I'm simply saying that paper, the written word is not as eternal as you like to think. The fragments of the dead sea scrolls stumbled across by a goat herder would tell you that."

That is certainly said simply. A pity about the conclusions being drawn from it, as with all simple statements. Paper is not internal. Nothing is. However, paper is a less fragile technology that our current e-storage technologies. It may well be that we overcome this problem in time to save what is currently being held only on fragile electronics, but equally we might not. There is a much greater chance that things stored electronically now will be unreadable in 2,000 years than things written now on paper. The chances of either are low, but the paper stands the better chance because it is the less fragile technology.

being obtuse said...

I'm only arguing because I'm bored. you have a point but I susspect us clever bipeadal apes will work it out, after all we invented libraries.

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