Libraries Make the Digital Music Weblog page

Here’s an interesting short story on digital audiobooks and format wars, from the Digital Music weblog.

They bring up the issue of how some audiobook companies use DRM technology to make the book “automatically expire” after three weeks or so – just like how you return a book when it’s due. Of course, the DigitalMusic blogger finds that concept absurd – because you’re still stuck with a file that you then have to delete (and apparently didn’t think about copyright issues associated with borrowing the digital copy).

But it’s still something to think about – I can copy parts of a book, a magazine article, etc. Why does my file have to stop working? Do we have to mimic the traditional library in digital format, or is there another way?

ahem… I was gonna say “why can’t I copy my digital file,” but realized there are ways… one of them being with an audio out jack…

Blending is Good!

Last week, I stopped at Starbucks on my way to work. Instead of the usual rather large coffee, I ordered an “iced shaken coffee,” slightly sweetened. It was good! And I realized that it blended multiple things that I like – I like iced drinks, I like coffee, and I like sweet drinks… And this drink gave them all to me at once. Whew!

Experience Planning, at it’s best, should also be that way. When staging experiences, your goal is a blending of experiences: you want to entertain and educate, you want your esthetics to mix with the escapist experience. Why? The book claims it “makes the experience richer” … but come on. The real reason is this: offering multiple types of experience is bound to catch more people. If someone isn’t keen on education, then the entertainment or the esthetics aspect of the blended experience might hook him, where focusing on just one type of experience might not have grabbed him as easily, on that particular night.

Libraries and library websites can mix these experience realms into a rich website, providing entertainment, education, escapism, and wrap it up in a pleasing esthetic. And if you provide a positive experience, that customer will come back in order to experience more “positive experiences.” Like an addiction to caffeine.

ps – no posts from me for the next week – I’m officially on vacation for a week!

Realm #4: Esthetic, or “Just want to be there”

the experience realmsThe Esthetic Realm is all about passive immersion. You’re immersed, but you have little effect on the experience, leaving the environment untouched. A great example would be standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon – you are immersed in the huge cliffs and the beauty, but you can’t really change anything. Visiting an art gallery or a cool café might provide a similar (but much less grand) experience. At the café, there might be cool hip music, great smelling coffee, possibly a good book, and maybe other similarly-minded people. That sets up an esthetic experience.

Libraries can pull this one off – our buildings can set a mood or strike a pose. Our library staff can even help to provide this type of experience, either good or bad, via attitude. Our books do this visually with a look and a smell.

Our website can do this, too, can’t it? It can strike a pose and set a mood. It can give off good/bad vibes that set a (hopefully) positive attitude towards staff. This is seen in the look-and-feel of the site.

Realm #3: Escapism, or “Just want to do”

the experience realmsEscapist experiences are sort of the opposite of pure entertainment – with escapism, you are completely immersed and actively involved. “Theme parks, casinos, virtual reality headsets, chat rooms, or even a game of paint ball” – all are examples of escapist experiences.

You might have noticed – many of these also involve entertainment. In fact, these combinations happen a lot with experience planning. Think about an IMAX theater – you get immersed, but in a big, entertaining way. Also, when participating in an escapist experience, you’re not neccesarily watching others do something – instead, you are the actor, and you affect the performance. Think Runescape again.

BThis is possibly the hardest realm for a library to create (hey Dave, how about Paintball at the library :-) but not impossible. For example, my library is planning a haunted house type of event around Halloween. That’s escapist for you!

And let’s use Runescape again as an example. It’s an escapist experience, and I’ll bet that a third of our in-library computer users are playing it right now. And that’s not a bad thing. They are interacting with 60,000 other Runescape players, so there’s a lot of social interaction going on. On the techie side, they’re basically learning to chat/IM with each other – that’s cool. And they’re experiencing a “live” version of a basic fantasy novel (well, minus the plot, of course).

So – maybe we should do something to support our customers, like:

  1. Create a Runescape page, or a gaming page with Runescape info as an offshoot. It could point to the game and other useful websites about the game. Maybe even give some basic “how to’s” to help interested customers.
  2. Point to other avatar online games.
  3. Point to related books/videos (probably books on topics like online gaming, chatting/IM, etc.)
  4. Hold a Runescape Day at the library! Reserve some PCs for Runescape players, even have a librarian get online and have a virtual “meet and greet” with everyone.

And with that idea in mind, you can easily translate that into other areas, like Flickr, Furl, etc. Teach users about online social interaction, gaming, etc via on-site classes and web guide pages.

Just some pointers for starters.

Realm #2: Education, or “Just want to learn”

the experience realmsThe realm of Education is also absorbed, like entertainment (discussed yesterday). But unlike entertainment, education requires the active participation of the person beign educated. Your mind has to be actively engaged to for this experience to click.

Again, libraries do well in this realm: reading can be entertainment, and it can be education. Technology classes or reference classes can be educational. Even things like author events can be educational.

We can also stage educational experiences on the library website. Examples? How about an audio version of an author event, for customers who couldn’t attend the live event? Or even a video version, if you have the equipment? Any type of “How do I find something” guides are educational opportunities. So this is an easy experience for libraries to provide on a website.

This gets more fun when realms are combined. Think “edutainment” – a good example of edutainment in Kansas City is Science City. Science City is built in our historic Union Station. Kids can dig for fossils, see how a tv station works, and learn how tornadoes are made – all in this great big, run-and-scream-built-for-kids area. The kids think it’s great fun, and they’re learning at the same time… or, as Science City’s website says “where play and education go hand-in-hand.”

Think – how can a library combine the two ideas, and create edutainment that sticks in kids minds, gives them a positive experience at the library and on the library’s website? that’d be the 10 million dollar question!