Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Library Mobile Service without the Apps

There are so many great ways to create a mobile app for the library. With a little know-how and coding ability, the library can save thousands of dollars in the set-up of a mobile destination. Recent presentations have indicated that it is important to minimize content to the most essential parts. It’s great to provide this service. However, I think more often than not, libraries do not have the ability to create it on their own. They need to have a third party developer create an app for them, especially when it comes to the library catalog.

A problem that arises, not just with mobile services, but with digital library services is compatibility. Your library has audiobook services, but it suddenly stops working for iPod Touches, what happens next? Apps are also problematic for this reason, once the platform ceases to support the operating system; you and your patrons are just out of luck. The general business climate with Apple, Google, Amazon, and others in relation to app development impacts libraries trying to get into the same market. When the companies don’t play nice, we suffer the consequences. It has already impacted brand new innovative services.

"Last Thursday saw new app updates from both Spotify and Rhapsody. And guess what? Both listings state that the only change was that the app dropped the subscription link. These streaming music apps are now as crippled as Netflix or the reading apps that fell victim to Apple over the weekend."

"Apple’s new in-app selling rules are in effect, requiring retailers to give Apple 30% of revenues from book sales.  As a result, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Google Books have stopped selling books through their apps."

"While Google hasn’t yet confirmed that the rule change is the reason for the app’s removal (we’ve contacted them and will let you know if they do provide comment), given changes that have taken place in other e-book apps in recent days, it seems very likely. E-reader software from Kobo and Barnes & Noble has been recently updated, and the links to their respective online stores are now absent from the app."

"Now…I’ve always thought it silly that the app redirected me to the website anyway…shouldn’t an app do EVERYTHING? I guess not…"
(I feel this captures the expectations from most of our patrons, shouldn't an app do everything?

All this impacts how we deliver service.   If a patron used your downloadable audiobook site and it suddenly stops working, they stop using the service, blaming you, not the business environment. We have to look at other options in mobile service delivery.

Boopsie , Bookmyne, Library Anywhere, and LibraryThing for Libraries are three providers of mobile catalog services. (I am open to suggestions to anyone who can point me to others.) The problem with a reliance on apps is the exclusivity of service, but also an unrealistic demand. In the end, we are just as beholden to the technology market limitations just like any business and must be aware of these market trends. 

Some examples beyond the current news includes iPod Touches and Blackberries. IOS 3, which is the operating system for the iPod Touch doesn’t seem likely to receive further support. If Apple continues to provide a new toy for the public and then stops supporting it, we need to be aware of that change. (I know I was directly impacted when some of my apps on my iPod Touch went away after an upgrade several months ago.) Furthermore, RIM is in trouble. Even though they have never been a strong app creator and their native browser was one of the primary weaknesses, in which, Apple set its sites on when developing the iPhone. When it comes to any of these services, asking for mobile apps for the catalog, or other services, what can we expect from the vendor? When will the iPhone app come out, Android, Blackberry?

 It’s the pressure we put upon the vendor that’s put upon us by the public and the market, but it seems we really should be looking at a web based app that can do most of this kind of service. The content needs to be presented more mobile web friendly, not just app friendly. In that way, we can break free of many of these issues and not subject ourselves and our patrons to these problems. I think everyone would just like to take any device, point it at a url, and the easiest and appropriate interface should present itself. Without that it makes our services more difficult. I hope that we can see this alternative for our services including mobile catalogs, to mobile databases, e-books, and more. 

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