Re: [NGC4LIB] Video of “Think Different”

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 13/11/2012 16:39, Karen Coyle wrote:

On 11/13/12 1:44 AM, James Weinheimer wrote:

Where I do not agree is your idea that all that is useful to people today is our holdings information. While I agree that there is lots of bibliographic information available now, I do not agree that all the discovery tools needed by the public lie in the Amazons and similar tools.

Jim, I’m not not an absolutist. What I said was that the assumption that what the Web needs *most* is our bibliographic data is wrong — it needs some of our bibliographic data, but flooding the Web with tens of thousands of records for “50 shades of grey” is not going to solve any problems. What we *do* have today that no one else has is holdings information — information about what materials are available to users in their local community — and we should look to where we can make the most impact for users with the data we have. One possible way is to make a connection between bibliographic data on the Web and library holdings. That’s not the only thing we should do, but I see that as “low hanging fruit” and “bang for the buck.” In fact, take a look at the “use cases” page for the library data group and you will see this and other suggestions for data we can provide RIGHT NOW.

It’s a start, and after that the field is wide open.


I agree that making holdings information should be done because it will be something that libraries and the cataloging community will be able to point to. BUT (there is always a “but”) I don’t know if people will use it. There are several reasons but a very important one is that Google Books already has something like that, where if you find a book you are interested in, e.g. Tom Wolfe’s “A man in full, in the left menu you can click on “Find in a library” and from there it will take you to Worldcat where you can find it in your library, if your library catalog is in Worldcat. I have no idea at all if people use this option.

Google adds this kind of link because they are Google. They are not selling this book, but they are selling attention, and they do this because they know if they can get enough eyeballs, that is good enough for them. Google is unique and other businesses are quite different. Here is the book in where you can buy it for $11.48. Does anybody think Amazon will want to include a link to a library catalog where the person considering buying this book can get it for free? Or this from Random House where you can buy it through their partner for $17.00. I don’t think anybody would expect them to put in the link to the cheaper Amazon version. Will they want to put in a link to a free library copy?

This reminds me of the Digital Book Index, where the final result can border on the ridiculous. For example, here is the search for Herman Melville,%20Herm. Scroll down to “Israel Potter”. There are two options: one for free and the other for $60.00. Whenever I have demonstrated this to people and ask “Which one would you choose?” we all end up with a good laugh!

There is an article from the Guardian about a fight between the book publishers and Amazon because the publishers said Amazon was guilty of not charging enough, or “predatory pricing” for ebooks. What will happen when there is a library option that is free?

So, while I agree that putting out holdings information is fine and it should be done because it can be done quickly and cheaply, I am not sure who will take advantage of it. Certainly no publishers will, nor will anybody who wants to sell you a copy of a book. But I think there is a lot more at stake and is one reason why, at a talk I gave in Oslo I mentioned that it is vital for libraries to figure out what it is they really do and went to some pains to say that right now we don’t really know.

Putting our holdings information out for others to take may be a step in figuring out what libraries really do. It certainly can’t hurt.