Monday, May 28, 2007

Book Swim - Will It Sink Your Library?

I think libraries have just met the latest problem. I didn’t see this one coming. I was checking out the latest discussions on BlogHer and one of the post talked about a new membership service called Book Swim.



What if you could order the books you wanted and have them delivered to your door with free shipping? You could keep the books as long as you wanted and when you are finished you would return the materials and get three more?

Now add the possibility of commenting or reviewing that book with other book junkies. You would also get to create a personalized service that is tailored to your needs.

What is the catch? The membership fee starts at $23.99 a month. If the book is lost or damaged you pay the replacement costs.

I see potential alarms with Book Swim. Many small communities are losing libraries due to funding issues. What if a city contracted with Book Swim to provide online library services to that community? There would be no building, no staff, no maintenance issues or those pesky complaining patrons.

And if the city entered into said contract would it put stipulations on what books could or could not be offered to the citizens? Or would Book Swim set that up so that for whatever per membership the city is paying there would only provide a certain level of service?

And since there would be no need for a physical building called a library the land could be sold and more non-affordable housing and parking structures could take the libraries’ place. No, it hasn’t happened yet. But it could.

That would be bad, very bad and a more than a little worrisome.

I don’t dislike the idea of Book Swim. I’m for anything to keep the concept of physical books before the public. But libraries are more than books.

In my opinion, libraries have got to be about services and much more community outreach. They have got to have more tangible connections with their immediate and online communities.

The first line defenders of a library are the patrons. Will the patrons take on City Hall for the library or slip into the (Book) swim? How connected are libraries with twenty and thirty year old people? With speakers of 2nd and 3rd languages? With non-readers?

Who will be trusted to act as information guides to this incredible wave of information that is about to hit all library workers full force? (Yes, there is another wave of change coming.)

If public libraries don’t figure this out quick there will be alternative solutions provided by commercial interests.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Samantha said...
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Samantha said...

Gena,

Hello and thanks for talking up online book rental . First, let me assure you that we LOVE our local library- We love GOING to it. We'd never want to do without it!

But, yes, maybe someday, we can work with local libraries.

We are glad that you recognize our potential in providing avid readers with great titles and great savings, and we hope that you will explore our website www.bookswim.com and learn more about our services.

We appreciate any and all feedback and we take your comments into serious consideration.

Regards,
S. Negraval

Gena said...

Well first of all I appreciate your comments. We have a wide range of readers, library students and librarians who check the blog out.

I first want to make it clear this was just my opinion and first impressions of your service.

Second, I'm guessing this is a similar conversation that was held when Amazon.com started their online service.

There are features of Book Swim that replicate library type functions. This makes me a little nervous.

It is too early to tell but in some communities there maybe an unintended result of providing the service. There might be a benefit as well.

Well see.

Tanya Nichols said...

just found this thread and truly I am praising the book gods for this service. AWESOME if they are timely etc, Im on my way to sign up now and was looking for reviews. We have a large family and our library is in a less then reputable part of town. Im so excited!!

Anonymous said...

Don't waste your hard earned dollars. I purchased a one year, three books at a time plan as a gift for my girl friend. Since puting books in the pool as they call it it took over two weeks to get them. I write and the excuse was the address machine printing the incorrect address. Well its been 5 weeks now and after sending back two of the books two weeks ago she hasnt seen another book yet. The concept is great and we were both excited about it. Now that we have tried the "service" haha I would not recommend anyone take the chance. So far the blame for the poor service and slow delivery times has been place on the address machine and the USPS. I have asked for a refund and am cancelling the service and did not sign up to be a beta tester. Library 1, Book Swim 0 , Jim

DCMerkle said...

Libraries are already in trouble. The Kindle is only the latest, but then so again was the internet when it came along with the advent of e-books. Libraries, in my knowledge have always been able to go with the flow.

The service of book rentals serves a bigger role for a group of people that many seem to forget, the disabled. For many it's very easy to get to the library, but not as easy for the disabled. Having a service such as Book Swim, helps to keep this population in touch with their favorite passtime, amoung other things.