On Libraries

Kristin Berkey-Abbott’s most recent post made me think of public libraries and their fate. It’s something that I’ve thought about before in passing but never gave any serious consideration.

I’ve accepted the very real possibility that one day, the library (as a physical building filled with books to be borrowed at will) can and will cease to exist. I consider this a very probable event that will happen at some point in the future, even if it isn’t in my lifetime or that of the generation after me, though I hesitate to consider anything in the future to be certain. If we could accurately predict such things, we would very likely be flying to Mars on summer vacations with our jetpacks as early as next year.

The real question is this: What will come after the public library? Thanks to the internet and piracy within, it’s reasonable to expect that any and every bit of media will be available for free in some deep, dark corner of the cloud. Publishing companies can go the route of the music and movie industries, and sue everyone and their mother over every title still nailed down by copyright laws, or maybe we will see the rise of the electronic library.

We already have the e-readers and online stores for them, giving access to lots of recent and older titles. We already have ways to rent movies and games online (the Playstation Network and iTunes stores come to mind) Why not for books?

Of course, there would still have to be money in some form changing hands. To have patrons pay for each book borrowed would defeat the purpose, but I wouldn’t object too much to paying a one-time fee to download the service’s software. Perhaps a subscription service if it’s reasonably low. Maybe every book file would come with some ads if the service wishes to remain free for all. Maybe services will be limited to endless donation drives.

Would there still be a limit to how many books can be “borrowed” at once? Again, if it’s within reason I wouldn’t mind as much. The problem with subscription fees and borrowing limits lies when the software developers try to find a definition for “reasonable.” However, I’m not about to set rules for services that don’t exist yet.

The fact that all of this would exist on the internet likely eliminates the “local” factor. Even if city governments are among the first to jump on a service like this (though I have yet to see a government succeed in being innovative in any field, it would certainly save a lot of money on land development), I can see someone setting up their own service not based in any physical location and others following suit if the local e-libraries have just the slightest of problems.

Will there be competition between services? Almost certainly, even if there is nothing stopping one from joining more than one library community.

Will there be opportunities for social networking? “Your book has also been borrowed by John Smith and Bob Hammoth. Find others in your area.” I can see at least one cloud-based service (not set up by local governments) having a feature like this.

Will Google try to dominate this market? Or will we have another King of the Internet by this time?

From CHUM

CHUM is for now a short story, but I plan on making it part of a novel set in an alternate version of 1920s Chicago. Robots are just being introduced to the world, especially as part of the Untouchable Project aimed at using new and very convincing androids to crackdown on those who break Prohibition law. In the middle of it all is Thomas Quinn, a simple supervisor in a robotics factory who hopes that his latest project will impress one certain girl.

To say that Tom’s experience with being around women was limited would be an understatement. Shy and awkward as he was, it wasn’t completely surprising to him when he thought back to the last time he even held hands with another girl. He had to comfort his baby cousin somehow when she found herself separated from her mother, Tom’s aunt Frida.

His mother told him that he was still a handsome young man with his whole life ahead of him, and that may have been true with him in his mid twenties, but he still felt at times that he was wasting his better years when he saw his younger brother with a different, beautiful young flapper every night.

Perhaps he could adopt some thing like his brother did, like a fake Italian accent, a nonsense nickname, and a gun. But Tom didn’t like guns at all, and he always grew so squeamish even at the mere rumor of one being in the room. He had no hope of ever being a family’s associate like Johnny.

That wasn’t so say that he felt just as nervous walking through the factory today with Marla by his side. He had been admiring her from afar for almost a year now, and flirted with the line that had separated admiration and stalking when he shadowed her on some of his days off, if only to find out more about her and what she liked. He was certainly too shy and invisible to strike up a conversation himself.

Om must have looked like such a nervous wreck now, with Marla walking next to him in her best red dress and heels, and with lipstick and a flower in her hair to match. The dress didn’t show off her curves at all. Tom wondered at first if she even had them, and only dreamed of a time when he could ever get a chance to see them. But Marla’s true beauty was in her face, with hardly any makeup expect for her lipstick. She certainly didn’t need to wear any at all, and the lipstick was just for showing off.

It certainly worked. Every man in the factory stopped his work to look at her, pausing periodically and losing focus on the tasks at hand just to get another glimpse of her. There was the occasional whistle from someone standing a safe distance away. Surely, she got that kind of attention from interested man and jealous women often enough to bore almost anyone else, but Marla continued to accept it with grace and a renewed sense of pride.

In comparison, it only made poor Tom all the more anxious. His pulse raced even more, and he felt his body turn pink. Anyone who turned to look at the pair at that point would wonder what the hell Marla was doing with the bundle of nerves named Tom.

Busy busy!

I’ve recently learned that I hate being idle. Maybe that’s why I’ve managed to give myself such a crazy convoluted schedule this quarter. Two part-time jobs, full-time classes, and a school club leave me with 52 hours completely accounted for before I consider sleeping. It doesn’t sound like a lot until I look at it all on Google Calendar.

Other than that, here’s what I want to accomplish by the end of the quarter in June:

Writing: Rough drafts of graphic novel script Lily’s Odyssey, Lonesome George novella, finishing up the short stories “CHUM” and “The Wolf,” and giving Machmen a little TLC now that it’s breathed a bit.

Reading: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Foundation, and two big collections of SF-themed short stories.