The Internet And The Library

“In this digital age, the custodians of published works are at the center of a global copyright controversy that casts them as villains simply for doing their job: letting people borrow books for free.”

(ZDNet quoted by “Publisher’s Lunch on July 13, 2001)

It is amazing that the traditional archivists of human knowledge – the libraries – failed so spectacularly to ride the tiger of the Internet, that epitome and apex of knowledge creation and distribution. At first, libraries, the inertial repositories of printed matter, were overwhelmed by the rapid pace of technology and by the ephemeral and anarchic content it spawned. They were reduced to providing access to dull card catalogues and unimaginative collections of web links. The more daring added online exhibits and digitized collections. A typical library web site is still comprised of static representations of the library’s physical assets and a few quasi-interactive services.

This tendency – by both publishers and libraries – to inadequately and inappropriately pour old wine into new vessels is what caused the recent furor over e-books.

The lending of e-books to patrons appears to be a natural extension of the classical role of libraries: physical book lending. Libraries sought also to extend their archival functions to e-books. But librarians failed to grasp the essential and substantive differences between the two formats. E-books can be easily, stealthily, and cheaply copied, for instance. The source of the e-book – scanned printed titles, or converted digital files – is immaterial and irrelevant. The minute a title becomes an e-book, copyright violations are a real and present danger. Moreover, e-books are not a tangible product. “Lending” an e-book – is tantamount to copying an e-book. In other words, e-books are not books at all. They are software products. Libraries have pioneered digital collections (as they have other information technologies throughout history) and are still the main promoters of e-publishing. But now they are at risk of becoming piracy portals.

Solutions are, appropriately, being borrowed from the software industry. NetLibrary has lately granted multiple user licences to a university library system. Such licences allow for unlimited access and are priced according to the number of the library’s patrons, or the number of its reading devices and terminals. Another possibility is to implement the shareware model – a trial period followed by a purchase option or an expiration, a-la Rosetta’s expiring e-book.

Distributor Baker & Taylor have unveiled at the recent ALA a prototype e-book distribution system jointly developed by ibooks and Digital Owl. It will be sold to libraries by B&T’s Informata division and Reciprocal.

The annual subscription for use of the digital library comprises “a catalog of digital content, brandable pages and web based tools for each participating library to customize for their patrons. Patrons of participating libraries will then be able to browse digital content online, or download and check out the content they are most interested in. Content may be checked out for an extended period of time set by each library, including checking out eBooks from home.” Still, it seems that B&T’s approach is heavily influenced by software licencing (“one copy one use”).

But, there is an underlying, fundamental incompatibility between the Internet and the library. They are competitors. One vitiates the other. Free Internet access and e-book reading devices in libraries notwithstanding – the Internet, unless harnessed and integrated by libraries, threatens their very existence by depriving them of patrons. Libraries, in turn, threaten the budding software industry we, misleadingly, call “e-publishing”.

There are major operational and philosophical differences between physical and virtual libraries. The former are based on the tried and proven technology of print. The latter on the chaos we know as cyberspace and on user-averse technologies developed by geeks and nerds, rather than by marketers, users, and librarians.

Physical libraries enjoy great advantages, not the least being their habit-forming head start (2,500 years of first mover advantage). Libraries are hubs of social interaction and entertainment (the way cinemas used to be). Libraries have catered to users’ reference needs in reference centres for centuries (and, lately, through Selective Dissemination of Information, or SDI). The war is by no means decided. “Progress” may yet consist of the assimilation of hi-tech gadgets by lo-tech libraries. It may turn out to be convergence at its best, as librarians become computer savvy – and computer types create knowledge and disseminate it.

Modern Technology and the Bodyguard

Modern technology has always been geared towards the production of more effective weaponry. This has made it increasingly difficult for the people who are tasked to protect clients against attacks. Fortunately, a certain class of scientists, technicians, and engineers are also working towards the development of equipment to counteract the danger to these weapons. With the development of high impact firearms comes the parallel improvement on body armor.

The first incarnation of armor in human history was the kind made of leather and animal skin. Then came chain mail armor and plate armor, which were both made of metal. Through the years, scientists have utilized newly invented materials and recent technology to come up with lightweight yet durable and strong-as-steel body armor. Examples of this kind of modern armor include ballistic armor, soft body armor, hard body armor, the bulletproof vest, and the flak jacket or flak vest. Although this technology was developed primarily for soldiers in the battlefield, bodyguards have been making good use of it too.

Important modern equipment that has made the job of close personal protection much easier is the two-way radio. Communication is a big factor when it comes to securing an area for clients. Working in tandem with a partner, or existing security personnel, such as the police or other private and government agents, requires that you maintain some form of communication. Tactical headsets are also used for this purpose.

Footwear, though overlooked, has undergone its own evolution. Today’s duty boots are marvels of technology. They provide comfort, flexibility, and the confidence that you can outrun an assailant if the need arises.

Other modern inventions that are essential to a bodyguard on duty include such unobtrusive things like emergency flashlights, first aid kits, and defense sprays. Guns and weapons are not always part of a bodyguard’s arsenal. Though this fact may come as a surprise, bodyguards are trained to take the defensive stance and rarely do they take the offensive in a given situation. Some locales even go so far as to ban the carrying of firearms, even for bodyguards on duty. This is why, in conjunction with modern tools and gear, a bodyguard must be trained in the ancient technique of hand to hand combat. Close combat or weaponless combat are other names for it.

Another useful skill to have as a bodyguard is the ability to diffuse tense situations, and much more importantly, the ability to recognize potential dangers before they even occur. To be calm in stressful times, to act quickly when needed but knowing when not to act, these are paradoxical yet logical traits for a bodyguard to have. A client would be lucky to employ such a person with these skills.

The modern and the ancient go hand in hand in this unusual yet important occupation. It is an old profession that has existed since the time of the Japanese samurai. Nonetheless, it has raised no qualms about using the most modern up-to-date equipment possible in the undertaking of its duties. The modern bodyguard is a balanced paradox.

Mastering your Technology Gap

Let’s say you drive to work every day following a certain route. It’s the route you take, because it’s the route everyone takes. Then one day, there’s a bad accident at a major intersection. Traffic’s stopped for blocks. What can you do?

Grumbling, you turn your car around, head back a few blocks, then pick your way through a few side streets and find a different way to work. And lo and behold: although it’s more mileage and uses all these back streets, your new route actually gets you to work faster!

The “detour” that turned out to be a new and better way of getting there had been available for months. You just never thought to try it, until an accident forced you to.

And that’s exactly the problem with most businesses in America today, both huge companies and individual entrepreneurs: we wait until the accident to go out and find the new and better way.Because people resist change, we allow the technology gap to widen and widen, without exploring it. We don’t change suppliers when things are working okay as they are. We don’t try new software, new tools, new technologies. We say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”– and we end up losing out to those who took the initiative to find new and better ways before the accident, those who are actively exploring their technology gap and who never wait for the accident to happen. The motto of the successful businessperson today is, “If it ain’t broken yet, good– now go find a better one!”And herein lies the key to success. Recall what the sixth and final law of economic alchemy tells us: your immediate economic potential is defined by your technology gap. Here’s what this means: how well you explore that area of “what you don’t know about yet,” and how regularly and rigorously you explore it, how much you discipline your mind to step out of its routines and look into new ways of doing things that you haven’t yet adopted, is what will determine your economic potential. Now, you know that there is no limit to resources, no limit to technology, no limit to demand, and no limit to wealth. Aren’t there any limits on anything?!

Yes. In fact, there is one thing that is limited, and this is perhaps your most precious resource, for it can never be replaced, no matter how wealthy, clever or powerful you are:

Your time.You cannot grow more hours in the day. However, you can make better use of those hours, just as American farmers learned to make better use of the same number of acres. And there is nothing more important in leveraging your time than the Internet– from scheduling and e-mail to video-conferencing and making presentations. Just as the computer is more than simply a glorified typewriter (which is exactly how most people used it at first), the Internet is far more than simply a glorified phone directory (which is how many are still using it today).

It is an instantaneous global communication system. Your ability to use it to leverage your time is the key to your success.