Monday, 31 January 2011

Clearing out the baggage

January is one of my least favourite months. I am often still tired from the year before and that doesn't magically disappear on New Year's Eve. I sometimes wish it would burn up in the brilliant light of those fireworks. That would be a proper end to a year. (Note to self: perhaps I should invent a new religion this year or at least a few rituals).

I often don't know what the new year holds for me and that is stressful in itself for someone who likes to be in control of things or at least know where things (myself included are going). January is also a curious blend of the end of the long school holidays then the sudden transition to school routine for the kids and myself. All of a sudden we're back to timetables, sports, music, Scouts and all the paraphernalia of everyday life. Throw in a flood and I feel totally discombobulated.

This year I am trying to become calmer and more rational in my dealings with life. So on this last day of January I am going to have a whinge about something and then let it go, hopefully never to sully me again.

Before setting off on our epic family drive to Sydney and back after Christmas, I decided to test-drive our local library's digital loan system. I love books and I enjoy techie things so I thought it was great that our local library was offering digital loans. Hours and hours of aggravation later I was just pissed off. So much so that I wrote a furious email to the library which I fortunately diverted to my draft file while I sat on my anger a while. My dissertation advisor gave me the good advice not to send off letters in anger and it's saved me a few times. Not that the crankiness was unjustified but I probably didn't need to burden some overworked and underpaid librarian with my rant. Instead I am going to burden you then let it go…

This is what I wrote at the time:

Dear XyZ,

I recently tried to borrow a digital book and while able to borrow it, was completely unable to play it. I have a Mac and downloaded the recommended version of OverDrive. However, the Mac version of OverDrive won't play the more updated versions of the books. On the OverDrive site the version of the console for Windows is 3.2 while for the Mac it is 1.1. I received the message "This version of OverDrive does not play WMA Audio Books." Your site recommended that I use Flip4Mac but it does not support "content that is protected with Windows Media digital rights management (DRM)" which this content is.

I realise that the library site said that the book was not formatted for Mac but I need to use my Mac to transfer the file to my iPod. The recommendation to simply use iTunes doesn't work as to use iTunes I have to use my Mac. This is a ridiculous situation that a Mac user cannot use a product that is formatted for an Apple product unless they use a PC with Windows software. It is also unhelpful that your site suggests solutions that do not work. Why not simply say at the portal that "only PC users are welcome here"?

It is also a ridiculous situation that once I have "borrowed" a digital book, no other user can borrow it until I "return" it. Why are you using a system based on old models of libraries when you have digital editions that can be borrowed by as many users as want to at a time? Now I have five books that I have removed from circulation that I can't access or listen to and no-one else can either until my three week loan period expires. This seems a very poor implementation of technology whether it is by your choice or by software and book publishers stuck in twentieth century notions of readership and book publication.

I have completely wasted several hours of my time and will in future only borrow "real" books or purchase audio books from iTunes directly. At least I will be sure that I will be able to play them. Perhaps this was not an issue in the past but as more and more people use iPads, iPods and similar Apple products, more and more of your patrons will be alienated. And perhaps you will draw the conclusion that people aren't interested in digital books when in reality they simply aren't interested in obtaining them from sources such as the library. And that will be your and our loss, because your library is a wonderful asset to the community and should continue being so in the future, whatever direction technology takes books.

Yours sincerely,

An irate library client

Letting go NOW...

1 comment:

Vivi said...

Take a deep breath, and move away from the Send key! (As you appear to have done.)