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Oh Em Gee Kindles and Reliance on the Savvy

September 25, 2011

This blog post comes in three parts: Kindle Muppet-Flailing-Arms-Dance, Some Whine Without Cheese, and a Sidenote of Philosophy.

Like many libraries across the country, we have a service population that jumped on the Kindle bandwagon before we really fleshed out our collection of e-books.  Those patrons had to wait, buying books and biding their time, for us to be able to provide them with library books on their preferred content delivery device.

Just before the beta-testing was announced, I received a phone call at the desk asking about Kindles.  The patron had been eagerly awaiting and checking the compatible device list to see if they were available yet.  And lo and behold, there they were!  I didn’t have much information to give her other than that when we knew something for sure was set up, we’d shout it from the mountaintops.

But I had to know for myself.  I grabbed a supervisor, who in turn grabbed the library’s Kindle, and I set to trying to figure out what was happening.  After combing through forum posts by similar users anxious for the service, I ended up calling the lovely folks at the Seattle Public Library.  But with everything still on the eve of beta, there wasn’t much information to get.

Beta is over and now Kindle compatibility is here.  It is indeed a joyous day for Kindle owners!

I like e-books, but I’m a bigger fan of the idea of being able to access library materials anytime, anywhere.  But my real vice in this regard are downloadable audiobooks.  So even though I had never used Overdrive before working in a library, I quickly adopted it as a primary means of consuming content and earned myself the label of “guru” amongst my coworkers.  If someone had a problem, they got sent to me.

This wasn’t really a big deal.  As always, I’m happy to help people who are trying to navigate new technology.

There’s also a degree of job security in knowing how to do something that others aren’t that comfortable with yet.  At the same time, is that the best customer service?  Just today we had someone come in to ask about Kindles and downloading books from us, and they got referred to me.  Unfortunately for that patron, I was at another branch.  Even more unfortunate, I haven’t had the opportunity yet to go through the process to offer any insight.  My answer would be to direct patrons to the material Overdrive has published on how to get library materials on their Kindle.

So really, I don’t know more about this than another person in my department might.  The video linked above is in the first ten results of a Google search for “how to download overdrive to kindle.”

My point is this: it’s dangerous to become too reliant on specific individuals for your technology help. This is true if you’re talking about a coworker, family member, or friend.  Early adopters and People Who Like to Fiddle With Stuff (like me) may not always be there to point to, and eventually, you’ll develop a confidence and mastery of functionality that will serve you well.  Having that reliance standing out like a big, ucky-around-the-edges Band-aid on the relationship isn’t good.  My mom used to harp on me about only calling her when I wanted something – and thankfully it’s something I grew out of.

And now she calls me when she has questions about DDC numbers…


Sidenote: I really like the term “preferred content delivery device.” It sounds super technical, but it’s true.  Some people prefer a book which they can feel, smell, and listen to the turn of pages as they consume the content.  Others prefer a digital reader with electronic paper technology. Others like a LCD screen.  Still more prefer the compact, multi-functional design of a wi-fi, 4G enabled mobile device.  For many, it depends on the type of content they are to consume.  I like looking at it this way because it offers some flexibility in how we see a “book.” What is a book?  Is a book the delivery mechanism for the words published under a specific title, by a specific author, and cataloged with a specific number? Or is a book the words themselves?

Content is content is content is content is content…

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