iPad and libraries – some thoughts

OK, congratulations to all fellow Apple fanboys and girls🙂 The iPad looks good and I would love to get my hands on one. In fact on thursday I  got word from the ICT-department at work that they pre-ordered one for me. (I might have mentioned the upcoming device once or twice in the previous months and had a fairly long discussion with the head of ICT services that morning) Have I told you how great these guys are?

Even if I look forward to getting my hands on the iPad, or “padda” (toad) as it is rapidly becoming known in Norway and Sweden, one of my first reactions to Steve Jobs presentation of the iPad was  that this is Apple´s gift to Google. It will take very little effort to top this. Just add a camera and flash support to a touch screen with the Android operating system and you have a iPad killer. On the purely technical/OS side of the device that is. What probably will sell the iPad is the ease of use for non-techies.  A lot of blogposts and twitter comments have called this the first true “everybody computer.”  They might have a point. My iPod touch is equally popular with my three-year-old, my ten-year-old and myself,  who all use it in many different ways. A larger device appeals to all of us.

But like so many people I am more fascinated with the services embedded in the iPad than the hardware. iBooks and the iTunes-like book buying opportunities are what makes the iPad a  must have for me, more that the weight, screen, OS or other apps.

It will certainly be interesting to see what new iPad apps that will come in the coming months. One thing I am sure of is that we will all be surprised by the diversity of apps and the uses to which the iPad will be put to. And another thing to watch out for is the plethora of iPad-like devices that will hit us like a tsunami in the coming year. There will proably be two main schools competing with Apple, the Android school where the Google Android operating system for smartphones will be ported to a tablet, and the Windows 7 school, where Microsoft will try to match the ease of use of the iPad with tons of features and a “whole operating system”  to rival the limited OS on the iPad. My guess is that the Android school has a better chance, but that none of the competing schools have a chance against Apple when it comes to opening up the market of those who previously have not used computers very much, and people who simply want a few features to “just work”

For libraries the iPad will have little immediate impact. What it probably will do, if it is a hit in the marketplace, is that it will fuel reader demand for e-books. I predict that it will be a slow development, but maybe too fast for many librarians. When the demand for e-books is for Nora Roberts latest romance novel, rather than some science fiction blockbuster or main stream popular science non-fiction, and the person wanting the e-book is the harassed mother with three kids running around her at the library desk, then e-books will have arrived in the library. This could happen if the iPad really hits it off with the public.

For libraries there are two main challenges:

1. How do we get content from the library to the iPad and similar devices, and can libraries use iBook or the AppStore as a delivery method? I think there will be several opportunities, and that binding libraries to a cooperation with Apple to get in through the iBook store probably will be difficult and even counterproductive. There are at least two avenues to go, either create an international LibraryBook app (open source of course), that will work on any operating system, or cooperate with the creators of any of the open source apps that are out there to deliver books through them. Both avenues has their pros- and cons, but I believe that to secure a future for the library brand it would be a good idea to develop a special library app.

2. Will the iPad and iPad like devices  change the media habits of readers? Very likely. The iPod and iPhone has both changed a lot of behaviour and expectations from library users, and how other devices are viewed and used. I expect to see increasing demand for content on tablets from readers and probably pressure on the library to deliver certain types of content, i.e. ebooks.

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on an iPad and try it out in my library.


I'm a norwegian librarian.

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Posted in E-books, Librarian 2.0, Library 2.0, Web 2.0
11 comments on “iPad and libraries – some thoughts
  1. […] Librarian 1.5 blog, written by Norwegian librarian Thomas Brevik, has a few thoughts on what the iPad means to libraries. Here is a snippet: How do we get content from the library to the iPad and similar devices, and can […]

  2. […] In a post on Library 1.5, “iPad and libraries – some thoughts,” Scandinavian librarian, Thomas Brevik, writes about what he thinks the the new device will mean for libraries. […]

  3. […] and libraries – some thoughts [web link]Librarian 1.5 (01/Feb/2010)“…and can libraries use ibook or the appstore […]

  4. miguel says:

    what about DRM? I will not trust a reader who can “decide” for me what should I read … otherwise, there are alternatives, and more will arise soon, I believe. Community always hack (improve) the market.

    Otherwise, I feel this things are quite fragile, though I didn’t handled any of them …


    • I agree that DRM in the iBookstore is a problem. As with the development of iTunes from DRMed to DRM-free music I think this is a transitionary phase. At this stage it is important that book publishers and authors can test the wather without feeling too exposed. I would be very surprised if the iPad was not jailbroken within a month, and DRM-free e-books are already available from several sources. I do also think that most consumers will not care, as they did not care with iPods and iTunes. Activists care and will fight for a change that I belive will be coming, but slowly. Actually libraries might be a force in this change by insisting on non-DRM or user-friendly DRM (if that is possible:-))

      While the iPad might be a walled garden, the rise of cheap and user friendly tablets will fuel a diversity of choice when it comes both to hardware and software. We do live in interesting times.

  5. […] librarian, Thomas Brevik, has an interesting short post on what the iPad might mean to libraries.  He predicts that it will “fuel reader demand for […]

  6. As an IT professional who is called upon by family members to solve home computer problems on an almost weekly basis, I have long argued that PCs (and I include Apple Macs in there) are hugely more complex than 905 of their owners need. I firmly believe that we need a home computer that works like a television, where no technical knowledge is needed to operate it,when you turn it on it just works and it doesnt keep crashing. On a side note it is interesting to note that the reverse is in fact happening, televisions and the like are becoming more like badly behaved PCs, I regularly have to reboot my freeview box when it crashes. But that is another story. As I was saying we need a simple PC for the masses, one that surfs the web, sends emails, handles media, and does some of the othere things we use PCs for. When I got hold of an iPod touch, my immediate reaction was, this is it. This is all the computer most people need. It works. It is intuitive to operate and it doesnt (seem to) crash. If only they made it a bit bigger, maybe had a optional keyboard and mouse. I should really mention these thoughts to Apple, I am sure it would take off I am going to spend my remaining days telling anyone who wants to buy a PC and doesnt work in IT to get an iPad instead. Maybe Steve Jobs will give me one in lieu of commission.

  7. […] have to take place between libraries and open source apps creators to get ebook content to readers, read his blog post and the comments that […]

  8. The new technology will surely pose a challenge for libraries. The Kindle and the iPad will increase the use of eBooks to the point that the internet will become a huge ‘library’ server, providing users with the required resources to view in their devices.

  9. […] iPad and libraries — some thoughts […]

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