The iPad, Tablets and E-Readers in Libraries: Game Changers or Are They Just Another Mobile Technology?

My wife loves to read magazines and books every night after work. I love to read articles on my iPhone. The problem is that when you’re reading a magazine or a book, it’s obvious what you’re doing. When I’m “reading” my iPhone, in her eyes, I’m working. Yes, some of them are articles, news and blog posts about work, but many other times they are not. I can’t think of too many other reasons currently why I’d like an iPad, which is being announced by Apple tomorrow.

Note: I have $.50 riding on the fact that it’s called an iPad and plan on using my winnings to pay for half of a bus ride on MUNI.

There has been a lot of talk around the office about what this and other e-readers will do for the publishing industry and we’ve signed up to get our Kindle Devloper’s Kit, but based on some of the recent news and talks that happened at ALA Midwinter recently, it got me thinking again about libraries and how e-readers and specifically the iPad will change or not change libraries.

Here’s what I’ve determined: Outside of the discussions going on about mobile technologies in libraries, I don’t think it will change it too much. The iPad will offer some great new graphic interfaces where buttons will be bigger, browsing experiences will be more tactile (as the iPhone and other mobile phones do), but e-readers and libraries becoming more mobile-friendly will play into the fact that an iPad will just be a bigger version of the iPhone. Obviously at this point I haven’t seen one, so I’ll update if I’m wrong, but I can’t help myself in thinking people will be holding up the iPad to their ears as a silly joke, looking like they’re talking on an iPhone.

So we’re back to mobile. Do I think libraries should start spending money and resources to develop iPad Apps? Absolutely not. In fact, we don’t think libraries should spend money and resources on iPhone Apps. If you need some great reasons, Michelle Kraft (AKA the Krafty Librarian) just wrote a great piece called “Stop the App Madness” and Jason Griffey’s proclamation of 2010 being the Death of the App is actually something we’ve talked about a lot over here. And while it’s great to see these things talked about in the library community, we’ve noticed that Google is betting on the mobile web, plus some research stating that the cloud will replace mobile apps (and their stores) in the next five years.

All of this said, I’m looking forward to seeing how the iPad and e-readers “change” libraries, but only time will tell. In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to seeing what it looks like and ultimately what it does, other than to let my wife know I’m reading and not answering work emails.

Published by nc

CEO and Co-Founder of Mosio, a mobile agency and the creators of Text a Librarian.

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