The Shifted Librarian - Shifting Libraries at the speed of byte
 Monday, June 23, 2003

DVD Numbers Exploding, Making Studios Lots of Money - Will They Be Smart Enough to Learn from This?

DVD in 50 - Studio Execs Discuss The Future of DVD

"Last week DVD studios, producers and press all converged for the annual Video Store Magazine DVD Conference. Last year everyone gathered to celebrate the 5th anniversary of DVD. This year it was another big landmark, 'DVD in 50,' as DVDs found their way into over 1/2 of all US Homes....

The picture for DVD couldn't be better. In the United Stats there are now over 50 million set top DVD players. This number is expected to grow to 60 million by years end. When you add other devices which can play DVDs (including PC's, PS2 and X-box) that number jumps up to between 90 and 100 million DVD capable devices. In 2002 there were 1.14 Billion DVDs shipped world wide and the average home bought 15 DVDs. For the first time DVD has overtaken VHS in the rental space. During the week ending June 15, 2003, for the first time ever, more DVDs were rented than VHS videocassettes. According to VSDA VidTrac, 28.2 million DVDs were rented while 27.3 million VHS cassettes were rented. DVD Rental stores also are singing the DVD praises which is now a $9 Billion industry. Old style DVD Rental companies like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video have more to celebrate (though renters won't be crazy to hear this) as 25% of DVD renters are reported to pay late fees at least HALF of the time they rent DVDs and in 2002 Video Rental companies collected an estimated $1 Billion in late fees - yes, that's Billion with a 'B'. The explosion in DVD doesn't end there. DVD is seeing growth into the portable market, into cars, dorm rooms, playrooms and multiple rooms in the home. Twenty-nine percent of US homes now have two or more DVD players. Barreling full steam ahead DVD is expected to continue to have 'double digit growth' from now until 2007....

For DVD consumers there's some good news and some bad news about the future of DVD. The good news is that you won't have to worry about chucking out your DVD collection any time soon for HD-DVD. The bad news is that there is going to be a format war. I have absolutely no doubt that there's a format war coming and it'll make the wars between Betamax & VHS, DVD-A & SACD, heck even Coke v. Pepsi, look like school yard skirmishes.

As it stands now there are five formal proposals for an HD-DVD format.... The battle for the next generation of DVD is shaping up to be a mega battle between Sony and Microsoft in a 'winner take all' battle for the central home entertainment device of the future....

But a format war might be a moot point if the studios can't figure out how to make the next generation of DVD compelling for people to buy. As it stands now the key selling points for HD-DVD are: 1) it's got much better copy protection than DVD (something that was repeated over and over and over again through out the day); 2) it has higher resolution picture; and, 3) 'Interactivity'. When pressed about what exactly 'Interactivity' means, the best response I could get was a 'Wow Experience', but throughout the day no one could really quite define or describe exactly what that was. Unfortunately, I believe no one can define 'Interactivity' because they simply don't have any idea what it really is. Studios on the whole seem to be a little surprised at just how successful DVD is, and just how popular all special features are with consumers, I think they are hard pressed to come up with anything to 'one up DVD'.

When you really boil it down, the rush to HD-DVD is less about what consumers want or need and more about the needs of the studios. The two biggest issues facing studios are copy protection and an end to the explosive growth of home video. Studios somehow think that they can capture lightning in a bottle and re-create the DVD explosion with HD-DVD. Several presenters at the DVD in 50 convention likened the launch of HD-DVD to a 'PS-2' type event with visions of consumers quickly tossing aside their DVD Players and collections and re-purchasing their favorite titles again in HD. I think some of these studios are going to get a serious wake-up call. Home Video isn't games and the jump from DVD to HD is no where near the tremendous leap between PS1 and PS2 or Nintendo 64 and Gamecube. Studios look at the consumer behavior surrounding game systems and think it can be emulated in the Home Video Market. It can't. I believe that DVD buyers are going to take more of a 'wait and see' approach to HD-DVD instead of fire selling their DVD collections on Ebay to jump on the HD-DVD bandwagon. I also think that studios are over estimating how quickly people are going to actually be upgrading their standard TVs to view HD content. Currently the FCC has a 2006 deadline for total broadcast conversion to HD. Most of the big name retailers I spoke with at the show admit that the 2006 deadline won't be met and they don't expect HD to be as mass a product as DVD until as late as 2010! All this combined with a format war, I fear HD-DVD has a fairly rocky road ahead of it....

Now may very well be the 'hey day' for home video. There is, however, a ray of hope for the future. The Studios do acknowledge that the customer is now in the driver seat when it comes to entertainment, so despite all their obsessions with copy protection and getting people to buy the same film over and over again, they do have a sense that they can't do it alone. Without the excitement and enrollment of movie fans the DVD phenomenon won't be repeated." [DVD Talk]

There are some staggering statistics embedded here. I can't decide which of the points made in this article are most important - there are so many! Lessons for the music industry, lessons in the fallacy of paranoia, lessons in the definition of the term "customer"....

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Protecting Patrons' Privacy

Downers Grove Public Library, one of my SLS libraries, addresses the question of Is Your Use of the Library Private. Does yours?

"The Downers Grove Public Library works hard to protect the privacy of our patrons. We have reviewed all of the records of an individualís use of library materials and resources that we create. We want to assure library patrons that we only retain records that are essential to conducting the libraryís business, and that those records are retained only as long as necessary to complete our business. For example, the record of materials that a patron borrows is removed from the computer system when the material is returned and any fines accrued on a particular item are paid. We do not maintain a history of materials that a patron has checked out in the past. Records of computer use are only retained long enough to tabulate usage statistics."

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Real Life Implementation of Weblogs in the Classroom

A Place to Be Heard

"Anne Davis remembers how she reacted the first time she saw a weblog being used in the classroom. 'I thought, 'This is all about possibilities,' she recalls. 'It's about listening, talking, collaborating, having a dialog. And it can work for any subject....'

Working with the group for two hours every Thursday, Davis set out to make writing more enjoyable. She offered ideas for different ways to open stories and introduced activities such as news writing. 'I wanted to get them thinking about what writing could be.' She also set up a weblog for each student. That allowed for instant publishing and created a space where classmates could read and comment on each other's work.

Students' attitudes began to change. 'They saw weblogs as a place where they could have an audience. They knew that writing mattered,' Davis says. A student named Emily said 'this was something you could do as a child, without having to wait' to finish growing up....

Around the same time, Davis received an intriguing email from a high school teacher she knew. They share membership in an online network (Educational Bloggers Network at www.bayareawritingproject.org/eBN*). Will Richardson, who teaches journalism in Flemington, New Jersey, suggested that the two classes collaborate, with the older students acting as mentors to the younger writers. The teachers set up a joint Web site for their project ('The Georgia-NJ Connection' at http://weblogs.hcrhs.k12.nj.us/georgia/*)....

The teacher relayed her students' anxieties to Richardson. He brainstormed with his high school students about how they might put the younger writers at ease. 'They handled that with class,' Davis says. The older students went online to offer reassurance, encouragement, and instruction....

That reassurance was all they needed to take off. The younger writers became enthusiastic webloggers, eager to publish their work and read the responses from their New Jersey mentors. 'This is what education is all about,' Davis says. 'My students are all reading, writing, listening, thinking, reacting.' The weblog has become 'a place to share ideas. We shape it as we go. It's all about listening to students' voices.' Davis knows the project has been successful when she walks into class and hears students clamoring for her to read their work. 'Isn't that great?...'

Parents have shown an interest in the project, as well. By reading their child's weblog, Davis points out, 'parents gain a window into their student's educational journey. Where else can they get that?'

Near the end of the project, Davis decided to share her thoughts about the successful experiment on her personal weblog (www.schoolblogs.com/newsquest/*)." [An Innovation Odyssey, via weblogged News]

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High-tech San Jose Library Gets Some Press, but Will Probably Face Censorship Issue

Books Block Wi-fi at San Jose Library

"Given that San Jose's new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library is in Silicon Valley, one would expect it to have the latest in high technology, and it does. The $178 million building will have voice-over-IP-capable phones, a fiber-optic Internet backbone, 4,000 data ports and tablet PCs to loan to visitors.

But one hot technology is conspicuous by its absence: wi-fi....

...information technology from the 15th century -- the printed book -- is thwarting technology from the 21st. All the paper in the thousands of books that will line the shelves of the new library will impede the wi-fi signal, says Richard Woods, IT director for San Jose State. Wi-fi may be deployed in other areas of the library without bookshelves, Mr. Woods says, and some tech firms may be able to overcome the bookshelf barrier. But wireless fidelity technology was not ready for prime time when planning for the library began in 2000....

With 4,000 data ports throughout the building, connection to the Internet should be available for every visitor who wants it. And if library officials want to add wi-fi later, it is "ridiculously easy to install," and inexpensive, he says.

'Literally, there shouldn't be a seat in the library where you cannot get data,' Mr. Brosius says.

About 150 of the data ports will be open and available for visitors to plug in their own laptops, says Mr. Woods. People without laptops can register ahead of time to borrow one from the library's inventory. It will have 60 laptops to lend plus 40 of the new tablet PCs purchased from Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto....

In the children's section, desktop workstations will be large enough for two people -- a parent and a child -- to sit side by side so the parent can monitor what Web sites the child is visiting, says Judy McTighe, IT project director for the SJSU library. Four computer instruction labs will also be filled with rows of desktop computers. The classrooms will be for university classes and community education programs." [MSNBC, via Wi-Fi Networking News]

The SJ Library sounds great, but my guess is that every one of those computers and ports is now going to have to be censored, and if a library has to do it at the server level, there may be no way for a librarian to "unblock" a site for the Supreme Court Justices' mythical person who is willing to get up and ask the librarian to do so.

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WhichBooks Are Good to Read?

Whichbook

"a neat little flash app that permits you to select on a sliding scale up to four different features of a novel and then recommends a list of prospective reading to you. (Plain-text available here). (via sixdifferentways)." [MetaFilter]

Interesting application that would be even more interesting integrated into a library's online catalog. Here's more information about the project, which does indeed have librarians working in the background.

"Opening the Book and the Society of Chief Librarians have created a new company - Openlibraries Ltd - to develop whichbook.net, (previously known as Book Forager.)

Openlibraries has been awarded £350,000 from the New Opportunities Fund to expand whichbook.net over the next two years, by increasing the number of titles on the system and by creating links between whichbook.net and public library catalogues on the web. We are working in partnership with Applied Psychology Research, libraries, publishers, library systems suppliers, the Poetry Society and the National Library for the Blind to create a unique resource for readers....

The books in the database are all fiction and poetry in paperback written in or translated into English and published since 1995. Some library services are endeavouring to purchase all the titles in the whichbook.net database. To see a list of titles go to www.openlibraries.net."

I know James and David will be interested in this one, too, right guys? Also, if you're looking for more sites to help you find good reads, see if your local library subscribes to NoveList, a commercial database for this kind of thing. You can find hundreds more links at Morton Grove PL's Webrary, including their homegrown MatchBook Service.

Addendum: I forgot to note that this is based on U.K. catalogs, although the "borrow" option that goes to a map and then a dropdown list of libraries is pretty slick in general. I'd love to see something like that implemented in the Virtual Illinois Catalog.

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Blogging Blog Stats

"Dave Sifry says Technorati's now keeping tabs on more than 400,000 blogs: 'We hit 100,000 back on March 5, and 200,000 on April 6.'

Andrew Acker on that news: 'At this rate, there will be more than 6 million blogs by the end of the year.'

Phil Wolff: 'I expect Technorati's growth to accelerate until the blogosphere is mostly mapped; then we'll see periodic bursts as new clusters are discovered or services come online.' [Corante on Blogging]

Reputation in NewsMonster and Blogs

"What are blogrolls but recommendation/reputation instruments and social network nodes? Kevin Burton implements an algorithm for exploring blog networks and finding blogs that one might want to read." [Smart Mobs]

Some other key sites for counting and tracking blogs: BlogCount, BlogStats, Blogger Recently Updated Blogs, and a bunch of links and stats about blogging. [First two courtesy of Library Stuff]

We're going to see some really interesting things come out of all of this during the next year or so. Makes me wish for librarian pagerank even more.

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Round-up of Links About SCOTUS Decision to Censor Library Internet Access

Not too much new to report about the SCOTUS censorship decision yet, but here are more links from around the web. Some librarians are reporting calls from companies selling filtering software already. Oy.

Look twice at that Yahoo News headline - it refers to the Court approving "anti-porn" filters in libraries. What they fail to mention is that there's a heck of a lot more content than just porn that is also being blocked.

I want to make sure that I note that this ruling currently applies only to those libraries that accept federal e-rate money for technology and telecommunications. Unfortunately, with the funding situation facing most libraries today, many don't have a choice. And as Andrew Mutch implied in his message, it's a good bet that Congress will try to apply this logic to ALL federal funding now, which means pretty much every library everywhere.

It will be interesting to see if this applies to wireless internet within a library, too. What a major step backwards that would be.

Update with more links:

  • Internet Blocking in Public Schools: A Study on Internet Access in Educational Institutions - EFF report that analyzed the "accessibility on the web of information related to state-mandated curriculum topics within public schools that operate Internet blocking software." It highlights why today's decision is so chilling. Kids can't get information at their schools or school libraries, and now they won't be able to get it at the public library, either. If they don't have computers and internet access at home, that means they don't get the information at all.
  • Blake is collecting Quotable Quotes from the decision over at LISNews.
  • In Supreme Court Backs Library Porn Filters, the Register notes that "Librarians now hold the key to public Internet access, which seems downright odd. It's been a while since we asked for permission to use 'all' of the Internet, but apparently it's something we should get used to."
  • Lots of comments over at MetaFilter, including this one: "The majority opinion notes that libraries have always excluded pornography from their collections. Souter makes the case that excluding pornography from an already existing (i.e., bought-and-paid-for) resource is a completely different animal from spending money to purchase pornographic materials. Souter, a self-described Luddite who lives in a cabin, totally 'gets" the Internet. Whooda thunkit?' "
  • People for the American Way: Supreme Court Decision: Internet Ruling Damages Rights of Library Users - "Filtering technology is an important tool available to parents and families, but it is not a tool intended to be used by the government to mandate decisions about what is available in a public library. This ruling could present a troubling retreat on First Amendment protections in cyberspace." [Thanks, Rich!]
  • Copyfight is also tracking some good links.
  • Michael Pate over at LibraryPlanet is dissecting the SC Decision.
  • Washington Post: Questions and Answers on Web Filtering. Decent overview, although it would have been nice if they'd provided more specific examples.
  • In Library Filters OK'd, First Amendment Loses, Dan Gillmor says, "Let's hope libraries start demanding better software, and that filter vendors will sell it. Don't hold your breath." Unfortunately, libraries aren't in much of a position to demand better software, especially with this decision to censor being forced down our throats. Which is why vendors have little reason to make better software. So yeah, don't hold your breath. This is the last thing in the world librarians need to be concentrating on these days.

This decision only points out even further how out of touch our politicians and judges are with the daily lives of the people they are supposed to represent. Obviously none of them use the public libraries they just deemed themselves knowledgeable enough to censor.

Final thought for the night: someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but there's no additional funding for libraries to start purchasing site licenses for filtering software, using staff time and resources to create internal solutions, or outsourcing the job of building something. So now we're supposed to divert existing monies (that help pay for the access itself?) from our already weakened budgets in order to be compliant with this decision? I'm still looking for the common sense logic here....

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More on the Supreme Court Forcing Libraries to Censor

Chatter about the Supreme Court's decision to force libraries to censor their internet access is beginning to gather steam on the WEB4LIB mailing list (you can follow it via the archive). Andrew Mutch sent this response to the list:

"I'm loathe to think how the CIPA decision will fall out in the library community but the likely consequences include:

1) More filtering of more content: Since the SCOTUS rejected the idea that patrons have any right to access material via the Internet, there appears to be very little legal restrictions that would prevent libraries that are so inclined to block great swaths of information. Currently, CIPA is limited in its scope of content and type. But there will likely be new legislation allowing much broader filtering to block out 'objectionable' material.

2) Expansion of CIPA: As the Court has endorsed the idea of tying filters to funding, we should expect CIPA's scope to expand to cover other library funding situations. This will sweep most broadly at the state and local levels where we are sure to see basic funding tied to the use of filters.

The practical effects will probably include an immediate push to install Internet filters on library computers across the country, especially as state laws are amended to require filtering as a requirement of library funding. An unintended but equally likely consequence will be increased litigation as patrons who are denied access to information force libraries to meet the legal standards of CIPA. The current filtering software often blocks beyond the scope of what the law allows and patrons may try to make sure that the filters are only blocking what the law states they should block. However, with the Court undercutting patrons rights to access information, this will likely be an uphill battle. For libraries and library associations across the country, we will likely see another round of filter wars that will suck up time and resources in an effort to limit the adoption of wide-ranging filtering legislation.

I think where the Court did the most harm is with its endorsement of the viewpoint that our patrons are simply sheep who will be fed the information that we decide they need. The introduction of the Internet had changed the information flow for the public in our libraries by allowing patrons, not the librarians, to decide what information they wanted to access. In my mind, the Court is trying to push libraries back to a day when the librarian was viewed as a censor and a scold. While the filtering advocates will applaud this decision for both political and pocketbook reasons, it will be the libraries and librarians who will suffer in the long run from the reaction of patrons who come to view us as the new thought police."

Unfortunately, the SCOTUS decision will put up a major roadblock to information at the one place you're supposed to be able to get it. The one and only place where a large number of people can get access to the internet. Those of us with computers at work, computers at home, and broadband access at home tend to forget this.

It also means someone else will be deciding what *your* kid can see at your local public library. That's the way to think of this, because this doesn't affect librarians alone. If your child goes to your public library, the librarians have no choice but to censor what they will see, and it will most likely be based on some commercial software company's blacklist. And there isn't a thing the librarians or you can do about it, thanks to Congress and the Supreme Court. They have taken that decision away from you.

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Supreme Court Forces Libraries To Censor

Court OKs Anti-Porn Filers in Libraries

"A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that Congress can force the nation's public libraries to equip computers with anti-pornography filters.

The blocking technology, intended to keep smut from children, does not violate the First Amendment even though it shuts off some legitimate, informational Web sites, the court held.

The court said because libraries can disable the filters for any patrons who ask, the system is not too burdensome. The 6-3 ruling reinstates a law that told libraries to install filters or surrender federal money. Four justices said the law was constitutional, and two others said it was allowable as long as patrons were not denied Internet access....

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, writing for the majority, said the law does not turn librarians into censors." [The Kansas City Star, via WEB4LIB]

So Jon and Dave, do you still think you don't live in that world? As Steven just said via IM, "it's a sad day for libraries, and an even sadder one for democracy." Here's ALA's official response:

"We are very disappointed in todayís decision.  Forcing Internet filters on all library computer users strikes at the heart of user choice in libraries and at the librariesí mission of providing the broadest range of materials to diverse users.  Todayís Supreme Court decision forces libraries to choose between federal funding for technology improvements and censorship. Millions of library users will lose.

We are disappointed the Court did not understand the difference between adults and children using library resources. This flies in the face of library practice of age-appropriate materials and legal precedent that adults must have access to the full range of health, political and social information. The public library is the number one access point for online information for those who do not have Internet access at home or work. We believe they must have equal access to the Information Superhighway.

In light of this decision and the continued failure of filters, the American Library Association again calls for full disclosure of what sites filtering companies are blocking, who is deciding what is filtered and what criteria are being used. Findings of fact clearly show that filtering companies are not following legal definitions of 'harmful to minors' and 'obscenity.' Their practices must change.

To assist local libraries in their decision process, the ALA will seek this information from filtering companies, then evaluate and share the information with the thousands of libraries now being forced to forego funds or choose faulty filters. The American Library Association also will explain how various products work, criteria to consider in selecting a products and how to best use a given product in a public setting. Library users must be able to see what sites are being blocked and, if needed, be able to request the filter be disabled with the least intrusion into their privacy and the least burden on library service.

The ALA will do everything possible to support the governing bodies of these local institutions as they struggle with this very difficult decision."

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