Wednesday, May 01, 2019

New York Times explores the importance of public libraries, in the "Web 3.0 age".


The New York Review of Books from Sunday April 28 has a long article by Sue Halpern, “In Praise of Public Libraries”, link
  
She mentions a long (197-minute) documentary “Ex Libris: TheNew York Public Library” by Frederick Wiseman (there is a shorter version for China) which I should watch some day.  Does the title of this film have anything to do with the name of the POD publishing company (under Author Solutions) "Xlibris"? The movie is also the name of a cloud-based education content company.
   
She starts out with an anecdote about a small town apparently in the Catskills and a bookmobile (remember those?) that went out of service.  The town proposed a small tax increase to fund a library, and wrought a resistance from the right wing. Eventually, however, the library was built and it boomed and became very popular, even in the Internet era.
  
  
She then goes into discussion of the New York City and Los Angeles central libraries.
  
That is all in conjunction with two new books: (1) Eric Klineburg, “Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life”.  So can reforming social media (another post to go up today), and (2) “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean, from Simon and Schuster.

A good question for new authors is how seriously they should go after the public library market to sell their books, even in this Internet age.  

Harvard undergraduate John Fish has made several videos on his channel about reading, such as the value of fiction, the value of volume reading (for humanities in college), and increasing reading speed without losing comprehension (I can imagine how that can matter in the culture wars).  He also sells audio books (link ) as a dorm room business. This facility would make me wonder how far new authors should go in offering audiobooks;  I haven't heard the topic come up in self-publishing contexts.  It sounds expensive.  You would wonder how students would have time to listen to them, but that's like having the time to watch videos or listen to podcasts. He hasn't posted in the last three weeks, don't know why.  
  
Back in 2012, actor Reid Ewing had made a short film “It’s Free” set in a Los Angeles public library, where he made the case for free access to information but almost inadvertently set up today’s debate on whether “free” social media is really free.  I wish the film were available because it could help with today’s debate on Internet policy. 
 
There is a correlated post on the Movies blog today about the Alexandria Egypt library fire in 47 BC. 

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