Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm not frequently this irate.

It's been a busy day for me. I just heard about this service, called Book Swim. It's like Netflix, but with books! Why get something for free at your public library when you can pay as much as $39.94 a month for the same thing? I just need to make a rebuttal against some of Book Swim's claims. (I'm sure they aren't going to read this, but for my own peace, I need to say them.) They do have a very small note on one of their pages that says "That said, BookSwim is a terrific suppliment [sic] for avid library users, as BookSwim encourages members to use the library if/when possible." That's not the impression you get from them, however. That, or they have a very out-dated concept of what a public library is and what a public library does. They imply, for example, that you cannot access library catalogs "in your pajamas at 3am," that libraries won't buy a book if a patron requests it, and that libraries only buy about 2 copies of heavily-requested titles to purposely make patrons wait longer. I can't deny that we do charge late fees (we call them "overdue fees"), but you can avoid that by renewing your materials (online!) or, here's a thought, bringing them in on time. We also don't offer doorstep delivery for people who aren't home bound. Sorry, I guess. I thought people liked going to the library. Check out this "comparison" graph to see some of the most appalling implications. Ways in which the library falls short of Book Swim?: 1. You can't access the library online 24/7. 2. The library does not provide a "Low Reliable Monthly Price." 3. The library will (allow you to) "Waste Money on Unwanted Books." 4. The library requires effort. 5. The library does not offer gift cards. Dude. I could see using this service if you lived in a rural area without access to a library branch, or if your library didn't provide home bound service, or if you were a college or home school student (Book Swim does offer textbooks, which are too expensive for most nonprofit places like libraries), but I honestly find this appalling and insulting. After all (I feel is the implication here), what do libraries provide other than books? And they can't even provide books conveniently, what with all those waiting lists and overdue fees! What (says the CEO of this company), no, my children have never been to a story time. What is that anyway? Ok, sorry, I'm (slightly) better now.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Whew! Glad you're better now. Believe it or not, BookSwim DOES care about what you have to say. Hi. I'm Eric. Formerly of the largest independent library system in the state of New Jersey, currently of BookSwim.

Based on many of your comments, I think you may work at one of the greatest libraries in the country because, I assure you from personal experience, many features you mentioned are unfortunately not available at most.

However, as we are hard at work on a redesign for BookSwim.com, it has given me the opportunity to re-write everything, and here's what I've written to replace the current library text:

Libraries are terrific community meeting centers for arts, research, entertainment and so much more. If your nearest library is close to home, is open when you're available and has enough popular titles in stock to keep you off the waiting list and knee-deep in new releases, BookSwim encourages you to frequent your local libraries as often as possible. Just don't forget to renew to avoid late fees!

My dear, I have not only taken my child to story times, I have led them (and many other library activities).

Beyond that, no matter how great and close a public library may be (take the NYPL, for example, with whom we've produced events in the past), there are still many potential patrons without the time to get to the library or who, for sheer convenience, would sooner have Chinese food delivered from the restaurant downstairs than take the elevator themselves. It's just who they are. We're not competing for their attention with you, but rather with online stores and big box bookstores which too many American are already using (and at which they are paying too much).

If anything, BookSwim can get these people in the swing of renting, which is great for libraries. Heck, we've even donated over 13,000 books to underprivileged libraries in the past year, alone (with another 6,000 currently searching for such a good home).

Finally, worth noting, BookSwim's podcast, The Literary Life, proudly includes a segment called, "Alpha Library," where we feature one great library that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In fact, from your description of the services at La Porte, yours may just make the list.

Thanks for caring enough about us to let folks know. And thanks for being open-minded enough to take to heart how much BookSwim really does care about and love libraries.