Jenny Han of The Longstockings looks at Bookswim and asks a very good question: why pay for something the library gives us for free?
In true blogger fashion,* I ignored the question Jenny was asking and didn't even look further into Bookswim. Jenny does, with a few test searches to show that your local library collection is probably better than Bookswim.
To me, the heart of Jenny's great post is this:
I know people are all about the renting these days (prom dresses, movies, designer bags, groceries) but why fix something that isn't broken? The library works just fine and it's free. Are we so lazy that we need the books delivered to our doorstep?
In the comments, I responded how my love for things like Netflix is founded in convenience rather than laziness. Given a finite amount of time and a seemingly infinite number of things to do, having the option of checking one thing off the list while still getting great service is wonderful.** So what about you? Do you love/hate/never tried services like Bookswim and Netflix? Why? Go join in the conversation over at The Longstockings.
Personally, to back up to the library part -- I think for some of us, convenience does indeed trump free. Add to that, sometimes the service is better -- I've twice had lost DVDs with Netflix*** and they never gave me a trouble, as compared to the attitude some libraries give over lost / claimed returned items. Plus, no late fees! I can have the item as long or as short as I need! I can wait for the weekend to watch my movies, rather than in the 3 days libraries give me.
I think libraries are at a crossroads: are we more about community? Carlie has a great post about the books v community center issue; and personally, I fear that the more we say "hey we are a community center" the more responses we will get that are "cool then let's close the libraries and spend the money on community centers with small book collections."
Jenny's post reminds me of two things: the community does think of us first and foremost as being about the materials, even if some libraries and librarians don't. And if we give that identity up, someone else - like Bookswim - will step in. When that happens, those who cannot afford Bookswim, or who still like the place of the library,**** will lose something valuable.
So what can libraries do? Based on my own selfish desire for convenience, the idea of mailing books is a great idea. Some libraries have been doing it for decades. What about remote bookdrops?
Final word: while I enjoy "mail to me" service, with gas prices going up, economically it may be a good idea to start offering book services that go beyond the "drive to me" option.
Cross posted at Pop Goes the Library.
*Blogger fashion -- using someone else's post to go off on my own tangents, rather than the questions they raise. C'mon, I do it, you do it -- admit it!
**I'm talking about Netflix; I haven't tried the other services like Bookswim.
*** Lost in the mail. Both items eventually turned up.
****I still love browsing books on shelves! But Netflix shows a electronic database can be browsable.