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Mac

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The End of Libraries
« on: January 03, 2012, 12:11:19 pm »
The End of Libraries

An open-ended essay on the tech of ebooks, libraries, business models and readers (customers)

Quote
The End of Libraries, Part I
Oct 18, 2011
I am a library manager, a convert to the eBook format, and very worried. Although speculation regarding the collapse of public libraries has been in the infosphere since the advent of the internet, the public library’s continued existence has never been more uncertain than it is today.

First, consider that in the face of growing demand, libraries around the nation are cutting back on new acquisitions, hours, and staffing. In tough economic times, public libraries, which are almost always primarily funded at the local level, are easy targets for cost cutting, and they are being targeted practically everywhere.

And then consider the advent of eBooks, which are exploding in popularity. Amazon sells more of them than they do hardcovers and paperbacks combined. There are four good reasons why eBooks will marginalize, if not eliminate, the paper-based book within a few years:
1.   Portability. You can access an unlimited number of books on one reader.
2.   Economics. For the publisher, the economics are irresistible—no trees to cut down, paper to manufacture, type to set, or books to print, bind, store, and distribute by truck, train, and plane to the four corners of the world. In time, those irresistible economics will filter down to the buyer of books in the form of greatly reduced prices, at which point Amazon’s eBook sales will go through the roof.
3.   Value Added. You can index, search, cut-and-paste, bookmark, and annotate eBooks. You can embed audio and video and Internet links in them. In time, eBooks will add values and features we aren’t even dreaming about today.
4.   Access. For the first time in history, you don’t have to go to the book. All you have to do is want it and, in a few seconds, anywhere in the world, the book comes to you.
Eighty-two percent of American public libraries offer their patrons eBooks, most of them through Overdrive’s online service. So what is the problem? The problem is content. There isn’t any. Too few books are available in the eBook format. Too few of those that are available are purchased by public libraries, typically through statewide consortia that share a central collection of eBooks among many libraries. And too few of the purchased titles are available for checking out. The checkout model itself is fatally flawed, where one purchased copy checks out to one library patron at a time for two weeks, just like a paper-based copy. Most titles in my state’s consortium have long waiting lists and a recent check of 50 books I have on my “To Read” list found exactly none of them available in my library’s eBook catalog.

And finally, consider Amazon.com. If they are successful in their current effort to get publishers to allow them to loan eBooks through their Amazon Prime service, the single most important motivation for supporting public libraries, at least to middle-class readers like myself, will vanish overnight. I will continue to vote for municipal taxes to support our public library, because I understand the vital importance of public libraries to a democracy. However, millions will not, and libraries from coast to coast will begin closing their doors.

I do not believe I am being an alarmist. We are in a political climate where public services are being privatized, downsized, or eliminated at a rapid rate. And if libraries cannot begin to serve their patrons’ eBook reading needs—and they don’t come close to doing so today—and an Amazon or other commercial endeavor steps in to fill that need, libraries are finished.

In my next posting, I will discuss how public libraries—and, for that matter, traditional publishers (their existence also being threatened by the internet)—can not only survive but flourish to a greater extent that they ever have, in this brave new eBook-dominated world.

« Last Edit: January 03, 2012, 12:16:02 pm by Mac »
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Mac

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2012, 12:12:04 pm »
Quote
The End of Libraries, Part II
Oct 22, 2011
The threat facing public libraries is real.1 It has not made itself manifest as yet, because no commercial enterprise has assembled the eBook lending package which is demanded by an eReading public starved for content.

The threat facing traditional publishers on the other hand, is here, today, and it is equally serious. Not only is Amazon publishing authors directly themselves (122 titles are coming out this fall alone2 and many, many more are planned for next year), but authors are increasingly self-publishing on the Internet and many nontraditional publishing entities besides Amazon are springing up to help them.3,4

The authors whom publishers are likely to lose first are the ones who are most secure in their earning power and therefore of greatest value to them. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, for instance, will be selling the eBook versions of that popular series exclusively on her own website,5 Pottermore.6

Public libraries and traditional publishers can save themselves only if they act quickly and boldly. The following is what I think they need to do, and the only alternative to this course of action, as far as I can see, is a not-so-slow but an ever-so-painful death.

Publishers: Convert every title, new and backlist, to eBook formats that support every device out there. Give them all to a nonprofit business entity, which we will here call AmPLE, for American Public Library Enterprise. AmPLE will manage the eBook distribution to public library patrons.

Public Libraries: Determine your eBook budget for the coming 12 months and send a check for it to AmPLE.

AmPLE: Get your site up superquick and start lending to your libraries’ patrons. For every checkout, decrement the eBook account of the borrower’s library by 50 cents, send 45 cents to the publisher, and keep 5 cents for yourself. Patrons can check out up to three titles at a time regardless of whether one or a thousand other borrowers have borrowed them at the same time. And no due date. When a reader wants another book, they will return one.

Do the math. In today’s model, a publisher might sell—let’s be liberal—2000 copies of a blockbuster new title to 50 state library consortia (the standard arrangement today) for $20 each, or $40,000. Period. End of transaction. The consortia then sets about loaning these 2000 copies to their 330 million patrons, 2000 at a time for two-week checkouts. Ridiculous.

Or. Check out that same blockbuster, which the publisher has provided to AmPLE free of charge, to—let’s be conservative—a half a million readers on Day One, at 45 cents a checkout, or $225,000—almost six times the amount the publisher would have received on the old model, and that’s only on Day One. That one title continues to earn money for the publisher throughout its term of copyright—until 70 years after the death of the author.

The 50-cent “charge” for a checkout is a reasonable figure, arrived at by dividing the average library’s annual budget for new acquisitions by the average annual circulation7. This figure ranges from 25 to 75 cents for most libraries.

Today, everybody loses, and this includes the authors. They need the expert services of traditional publishers. They need the nurturing, the editing, the production, and the management of their work, freeing them to do the work itself. We readers need traditional publishers, for their selectivity and the imprimatur of quality which their selectivity exhibits.

And we all need public libraries, one of the last bastions of egalitarian democracy in the U.S. Through public taxation, public libraries provide us all with equal access to knowledge and a wealth of information services which must not be relegated to the sole province of the well-to-do. Study after study8 affirms the huge return to our society on investment in our public libraries.

As eBooks gradually—or perhaps not so gradually—replace the physical book, we need to ensure that our public libraries provide these resources as widely, efficiently, and economically as the technology allows. A system like the one described above does just that. Under this system, public libraries will flourish rather than fade, and everyone else wins as well—authors, publishers, and readers.

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Mac

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2012, 12:12:46 pm »
Quote
The End of Libraries, Part III
Nov 06, 2011

It has begun. Last Wednesday, Amazon announced its new book-lending add-on to its Amazon Prime service.1 What it offers is fairly meager and the model, particularly in its remittance to publishers, is, to my mind, seriously flawed:
1.   Customers may check out only one book per calendar month.
2.   A mere 5,000 titles are available, and none from the top six U.S. publishers.
3.   Loans can only be read on the Kindle family of products and not on other devices, even if they run the Kindle app.
4.   The service costs $79 per year which, if the customer only uses it for book lending, works out to $6.58 per loan. Many Kindle titles can be purchased for that price or not much more.
5.   Remittance to publishers is either by flat fee, in which case one of the parties is probably getting a crummy deal; or, if I am reading the WSJ story correctly, Amazon is paying the publisher for each loan the equivalent of what they would pay them for a sale.
Regardless of these shortcomings, the door is open, and you may be sure Master Bezos has firmly planted his foot in it. Additional titles, supported eReaders, assorted features, and (undoubtedly) pricing structures will follow as soon as publishers realize how profitable it will be to loan their books to millions of readers instead of selling them to thousands.

Meanwhile, librarians have already begun whistling in the dark2,3, their arguments relying primarily on the weakness of the initial Amazon product. Still, that product is already miles ahead of what is being offered by most public libraries where, if a title is even available to you in eBook format, you will almost certainly have a long wait for it.

In the final analysis, readers want to read and writers want to be read. Any institution which facilitates that relationship will flourish; any that inhibits it will fade. At present, Amazon is facilitating and libraries and publishers are inhibiting the relationship. If the latter don’t get their act together—and fast—they will render themselves redundant. Publishers may come and go, but America will let its public library network fade at its peril. This further blot on our already tattered escutcheon is not one from which we will easily recover, in our headlong pursuit of oligarchy, mediocrity, and irrelevance.

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2012, 12:13:20 pm »
Quote
The End of Libraries, Part IV
Nov 12, 2011
There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Internet over Amazon’s new Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. A Google search will turn up many more instances than I could hope to footnote here. Be sure to read the reader Comments on the news articles for a full helping of the panic and despair sweeping the world, particularly among writers.

I am not sure they have as much to worry about as they think they do. However, Amazon has been less than forthcoming regarding the details of their financial arrangements with publishers and authors. Let’s look at what we know about those arrangements so far.

In a Wall Street Journal article published the day after the Lending Library was announced,1 the following was revealed regarding the finances of the deal:
Russell Grandinetti, vice president for Kindle content, said “the vast majority” of participating publishers were receiving a flat fee for their titles, while a more limited group is being paid the wholesale price for each title that is borrowed. “For those publishers, we’re treating each book borrowed as a sale,” he said.
Let’s look at these two remittance models, starting with the flat fee arrangement which covers “the vast majority” of titles. I at first thought a flat fee arrangement would have to favor one party over another. However, an article from Bloomberg via Gulfnews.com2 reports that Amazon’s flat fee payment for “a group of books” is good only “over a period of time.” This being the case, one assumes the parties would be able to renegotiate terms after that period of time (whatever it may be) had expired.

However, it is this arrangement which may deservedly cause concern among writers regarding where their share is coming from and how much it will be. Until more is known about the details of this arrangement, I cannot come to any reliable conclusions. If I were an author, however, and my book was included in the Kindle library under this remittance model, I would be speaking with my publisher by now, if not my lawyer.

I feel on firmer ground when examining the other arrangement, wherein Amazon purchases a copy of a title when it loans it out. On first glance, this struck me as a lunatic move, but upon closer consideration I think it reveals Amazon to be crazy like a fox.

If Amazon is buying a copy of a book at the same wholesale price which they would pay to the publisher when and if a customer bought the book through them, then they own that book just as a public library does and I would grant them as much right to put it into their “Lending Library” as any public library could. If they then loan that copy to an Amazon Prime customer and another customer wants it while the first one has it, Amazon will need to buy a second copy of the book before lending it out to two people simultaneously, in order not to be in violation of copyright. I am assuming that is what they are doing.

If so, writers—and readers—should be ecstatic. Amazon, overnight, has declared itself a SuperLibrary. Anyone with a $79 annual Prime membership can check out any of 5,000 titles. If a thousand customers check out any one title under this arrangement in the first month, a thousand copies of their book will be sold to the Amazon Lending Library. Amazon then retains those thousand copies to loan out to additional Prime members who ask for it in the second month, at no additional cost to Amazon.

With this model, everyone wins. The publisher sells as many copies of a title as there are interested Prime customers in a single month, with (I assume) standard royalties accruing to the authors. The Prime customers don’t have to wait to check out a desired title, which most of us have to do now in borrowing through our public library.

You may be sure the one-a-month limitation on loaned titles won’t last once everyone realizes how much money there is to be made by opening the floodgates of digital book lending, though subscribers will undoubtedly pay more for enhanced services.

If Amazon can pull off a real Netflix model for its Lending Library, they will have me as a customer for life. That model, however, must come close to including the following features:
•   Essentially any book I want to read is available to me;
•   I can read it on any eReading device;
•   I can have at least three titles checked out at one time;
•   My annual limitation on loans is determined only by how fast I read;
•   And the price is kept under $2 per title on average (which is about what I pay for Netflix movies). I read about 65 books a year and start, but don’t finish, another 15 or so. To borrow 80 titles a year, I am willing to pay $160, or roughly twice what Amazon Prime costs now.
Publishers and public libraries still have time to forge an alliance similar to the one laid out in Part II of this series. And although I there recommend a lower rate in the public library lending model, I am convinced the substantially higher number of checkouts would more than make up the difference in revenue generation.

With the announcement of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, the clock is now ticking. If Amazon can pull this off, as I said in Part I of this series, I will still vote to support my public library. Millions of others, however, will not, and public libraries will fade from our landscape as quickly as blacksmiths in a world of horseless carriages.

And Amazon’s triumph will be a national tragedy.

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Mac

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2012, 12:14:00 pm »
Quote
The End of Libraries, Part V
Dec 08, 2011
Today, Amazon announced the KDP (Kindle Direct Publisher) Select program, which enrolls independent authors and publishers in a $6 million sweepstakes and, upon its announcement, immediately added 129 books to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. I predict thousands more will follow very soon.

From the press release:1
The monthly royalty payment for each KDP Select book is based on that book’s share of the total number of borrows of all participating KDP books in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. For example, if total borrows of all participating KDP Select books are 100,000 in December and an author’s book was borrowed 1,500 times, they will earn $7,500 in additional royalties from KDP Select in December. Amazon expects the fund to be at least $6 million for all of 2012, in addition to the $500,000 allocated for December 2011. Enrolled titles will remain available for sale to any customer in the Kindle Store and authors will continue to earn their regular royalties on those sales.
So, for the first time in history (correct me if I’m wrong), authors will regularly receive a royalty payment each time a title of theirs is loaned, as well as each time it is sold.

Amazon’s payment strategy may seem eccentric. However, upon closer examination, it reveals itself as a cautious move on Amazon’s part, limiting their liability. As for what seems to be a rather cruel provision—setting authors against each other in the sweepstakes to win a big chunk of that $500,000 (a month)—well it is really just a reflection of the real world, where bestsellers earn more than literary novels—only in this case the purse is not open-ended.

Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos knows something you—and traditional publishers—probably don’t. eBooks are for lending, not selling. Oh, plenty of people will still buy books, particularly the print versions as long as they continue to be around. But the real money will be in loaning eBooks to a vast, global audience. And Bezos intends to dominate that business.

What author will fail to be lured by the sweet smell of the $6 million Bezos intends to put into the shared kitty in 2012—an amount which Amazon promises to reconsider each month on the evidence of the previous month’s activity.

Traditional publishers will feel enormous pressure from their authors to join KDP Select and, if they refuse, they will lose those authors to Amazon’s KDP program.

Can you say “disruptive technology”?2 Brother, you ain’t seen nothin‘ yet.

Meanwhile, where does this leave public libraries? One step closer to obsolescence, I fear. If they, and publishers, don’t get together soon, and forge something like the AmPLE program we outlined in Part II of this series,3 a tsunami of disruptions will be heading their way.

With the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, Jeff Bezos put his toe in the water. With KDP Select, he is up to his ankle.

Much more is to come.

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Mac

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2012, 12:14:44 pm »
Quote
The End of Libraries, Part VI
Dec 15, 2011
On November 2, Amazon introduced the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) for its Amazon Prime customers.1 It initially offered 5,000 titles, most obtained from second-rank publishers under contractual agreements and, under some other fairly hazy arrangement, additional titles one copy of which Amazon apparently agreed to purchase at wholesale for every Prime customer that simultaneously borrowed it.

Then, on December 8, Amazon announced KDP Select, a program to enroll self-published authors in KOLL, and, as I predicted, a week later there were over 52,000 titles available for borrowing in KOLL. I predict that number will again increase tenfold within the next 60-90 days as traditional and first-rank publishers cave in to the enormous pressure from their authors and from the changing nature of the marketplace, and begin listing their titles with Amazon’s KOLL.

Meanwhile, Amazon today claimed it has sold more than a million Kindle devices (including the newest, the Kindle Fire) each week for the past three weeks.2 Those devices are primarily intended for one purpose—reading eBooks.

Amazon has been much more reticent about releasing the numbers of its Prime customers, though I can tell you those numbers increased today by at least one—me. And the book I immediately borrowed, What Is It Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes, must have been provided through that fairly hazy arrangement described above. It is most definitely not self-published, and a quick perusal of Amazon’s first five pages of titles from its publisher, the Atlantic Monthly Press, revealed no other titles that were included in KOLL.

Others have estimated Prime customers at around five million, and that was early in 2011, before KOLL was more than a gleam in Jeff Bezos’s eye.3 If that number was close to accurate almost a year ago, I am probably safe in estimating the number has doubled since then and especially since the introduction of KOLL. Ten million members, all able to check out one book a month, 52,000 books to choose from, and a $500,000 pot to split. I hope after this first trial month Amazon will release some figures relating to KOLL usage; however, whether they do or not, I think things look pretty sunny for many of the authors of those 52,000 books. Not that there isn’t a tremendous amount of controversy around the issue, just now, appropriately enough, among self-published authors.4 Much more is to come, particularly as authors associated with traditional publishing houses begin to understand the unprecedented advantage they are missing out on: payment for books that are loaned as well as those that are sold.

What does this mean for public libraries? I think I have made that pretty clear already in the first five parts of this series.5 More to come, as more develops.

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Mac

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2012, 12:15:31 pm »
Quote
An Open Letter to All Living Authors (VII):

I would like to address some of my favorite people today in this, Part VII of The End of Libraries, and give you my take on what is happening in the eBook lending world, a brave new world that is as significant to the history of the printed page as the invention of movable type.

I read 93 books in 2011—78 in their entirety and at least the first 50 pages of 15 others. Midway through the year, while attending a library conference, I won both a Kindle and an iPad 2! What luck, hey?

Knowing that my public library had eBooks to loan, and being a borrower of books rather than a buyer (I can’t afford to buy 93 books a year!), I spent time and effort (too much!) learning the Overdrive interface and checked out my first eBook, When the Killing’s Done, by T.C. Boyle. The experience of reading that book on my iPad made me a dedicated eBook reader. From then on, I didn’t care if I ever held a “real” book in my hands again.

I quickly realized how fortunate I had been to find a Boyle at my library. A subsequent search for something to check out revealed nothing of interest. I maintain a list of books I want to read; it is six pages long at the moment. I checked the first 50 titles on this list in my library’s eBook collection (which it shares with 150 other libraries in my state) and found exactly none of them in the catalog. And most of the titles that were there had long waiting lists.

Desperate for eBook reading matter, and eager to see if the Kindle experience was as great as the iPad, I broke down and bought Desolation, by Yasmina Reza, one of the books on my six-page list. Though for me the iPad reading experience is superior to the Kindle (except in terms of weight), I would still prefer a Kindle edition over hard copy.

There followed a month or two of a dry spell, during which I continued to read books wastefully printed on processed dead trees and badgered my state library consortium to spend more on eBooks.

Eager to convert my wife to eBooks, I finally again broke down and purchased for the iPad the enhanced version of Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean. Its many pages of color photos and ten embedded videos(!) gave me a taste of the delights coming our way as eBooks mature and take on features we cannot even imagine today.

Then came the first rumblings of KOLL—Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library—and I began to write this series on The End of Libraries. Once KOLL was announced, and since my company has an Amazon Prime membership, I immediately borrowed my first “free” book from the Lending Library, What It Is Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes. Karl will get a piece of a $500,000 pot from Amazon for that loan, as will all the other authors whose books are loaned during December 2011, KOLL’s first month.

KOLL began with 5,000 titles and by the end of December it had almost 70,000, the vast majority apparently coming from authors in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program, in which authors can self-publish their books. In order to be part of KOLL, KDP authors had to commit to a 90-day participation in the lending program and agree to give Amazon exclusive sales rights during that period to the books enrolled in KOLL. Obviously thousands of you thought it was worth the commitment. Why? I think it is because you have become aware of an exciting new fact of literary life that also occurred to me while watching the eBook world and writing this series over the past six weeks: eBooks are for lending, and anyone who can come up with a scheme to adequately compensate authors for those loans will have built the better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to their door.

Amazon is on its way to doing that, all by itself. Monopolies are inherently undesirable, and this one also threatens the continued existence of a vital national resource: our public library network.

You are going to make a lot more money lending AND selling your books in the future than you make just selling them today. You are going to pressure your publishers to get on board with eBook lending and, if they drag their feet, you will do whatever you need to do to find your way to this enhanced revenue generator. As you do, I ask you to read the first six parts of this series (and any future parts: follow us on Twitter for announcements), consider the ill effects of monopoly and the end of public libraries, and get on board with a movement to bring an adequate eBook lending model to public libraries. I suggest one such model—the American Public Library Enterprise, or AmPLE—in Part II. Public libraries serve all 330 million Americans, not the scant few million who may be Amazon Prime customers and eligible for one KOLL checkout in each calendar month. The revenues you stand to gain which today are sitting on the table are enormous, and our public library network stands ready to bring them to you.

How to proceed? Get together with your fellow writers. Get talking. Don’t fret, the way your publisher is fretting (if you have one). A reading renaissance is at hand, knocking on our doors, ready to bring your works to the masses and masses of money to you. Don’t let this take forever, and don’t let Amazon kill libraries by bringing to a few of us what should belong to the whole world.

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Chiprocks1

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2012, 01:21:15 pm »
We have a local paper that did a huge essay about Libraries closing throughout the US. I think it's a huge mistake on a number of reasons to shut them down. I have no desire to start reading e-books. There's a tangible feeling you can't replace an actual book or magazine with the latest gadget. And then there's the social aspect of heading down to the local Library and being able to talk with other people who are just kicking back in the lounge or book clubs to discuss the most recent reads or the staff themselves. I've made a lot of friends and connections just at the Library alone and that's priceless.

With all these internet outlets, it's going to create even more fractured social and interpersonal relationships out there. If that happens, it's gonna be a sad sad day in my world and I'm guessing for a lot of other people as well.
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Mac

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2012, 01:40:08 pm »
While I have not fostered that kind of social interaction, I’m sure it exists there. I’ve kept to myself, I guess being selfish, and just used the library for media. Maybe I should be more open to those things. I tend to agree with electronic vs. holding a book, but I’ve discovered over time, technology help form change. Look at music. I loved vinyl albums. That whole experience was cool. But I think I’m slowly adapting to the digital age. Hell, even CD’s are going away for me.

My library is very busy all the time. Those people are like me and enjoy the experience, but like the article is saying, far more people don’t care about libraries or books and that support will dwindle.

But this series of articles highlighted the idea that the library building going away, much like the CD store. I hate that and hate to think that one thing I do several times a week has the possibility of disappearing… suddenly. At least this guy is trying to keep it alive or at the very least the libraries wealth of available options open to people.

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Chiprocks1

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2012, 01:46:04 pm »
Well, I hope you're prepared for when everything technological collapse in the future and all of these gadgets stop working. Then what? All the libraries and books will be long gone. I've already scoped out a few cave walls to start writing on and drawing on. And yes, one of the cave walls is geared specifically to my forum posting.

You can find me at Penny Cave when that happens. Suck on that!

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2012, 01:49:56 pm »
Did you invest in some extreme Islamic cave dwellings, your forward thinking survivalist?
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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2012, 01:54:30 pm »
Did you invest in some extreme Islamic cave dwellings, your forward thinking survivalist?

No comment.
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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2012, 07:48:42 am »
Library sends police for overdue books

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bzg2zhKiyFE

The little girl should have smacked that dumb ass face on that Cop with the overdue book if you ask me. "Duuuuuuuh duh duh duuuuuuuuuh". I hope he enjoyed his 5 minutes of fame on TV.

Chip's Rockin' Art
Michael Scott To Meredith: "You've slept with so many men, your starting to look like one. BOOM! Roasted! Go here.

Chiprocks1

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Re: The End of Libraries
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2012, 12:52:09 pm »
Chip's Rockin' Art
Michael Scott To Meredith: "You've slept with so many men, your starting to look like one. BOOM! Roasted! Go here.

 

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