Digital Libraries

This amusing little ruckus (which was done as a joke apparently, so you can take your head out of the oven – wait, who am I kidding, there are plenty of reasons to despair for the human race and stick your head in the oven) reminded me of an experience I had with the local library system a while back.

I should preface this with the fact that I love our local libraries. Fort Worth has a pretty extensive network of them, and I don’t think I’ve ever had trouble finding what I need.

So when I discovered that they had a digital audio book library, I was overjoyed. Being able to listen to something, be it a podcast or music or an audio book, makes 9 hours of sitting in a cubicle all day bearable. What did people do before this?

So I investigate. Basically it works exactly like checking out a physical book – there’s an expiration date. No problem, understood. You have to download special software to listen – okay, annoying but I get it. They’re not giving this stuff away, just loaning it. If it were just a regular audio file they would have no control over it.

Unfortunately, just like checking out a physical book, there is only one copy available at a time. Of a digital file. This is something I simply can’t comprehend. It flies in the face of everything that digitizing books (audio or otherwise) is about. There’s a file. It’s sitting on a server which can be accessed by thousands upon thousands of other computers. But for some reason only one of those computers can actually read it at once? Complete and utter fail, Fort Worth libraries. So I haven’t bothered with the entire endeavor. Too much trouble. Luckily there are plenty of podcasts to rescue me.

So I thought I’d ask – is it like this at other libraries? Is there some reason I’m just not thinking of? Some technical limitation that I can’t imagine? Feel free to let me know.

2 thoughts on “Digital Libraries”

  1. It’s probably a licensing issue. A library is no more entitled to copy productions for it’s own “profit” than anyone else.

    After all, if anyone could download a copy from the library for free, at will, how would the production company make its money?

    If the library was serious about it they would license multiple copies so they could “loan” that license to multiple patrons. Everyone would be happy. If they aren’t doing that, then lack of funds is probably the problem. That or they doubt the program would be popular and the whole thing is a test.

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