A Tragic Decision

A library without the books (pdf)

Cushing Academy has all the hallmarks of a New England prep school, with one exception.

This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks – the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. […] We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 [….] In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine. [emphasis added]

And to replace those old pulpy devices that have transmitted information since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s, they have spent $10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by Amazon.com and Sony. Administrators plan to distribute the readers, which they’re stocking with digital material, to students looking to spend more time with literature.

Those who don’t have access to the electronic readers will be expected to do their research and peruse many assigned texts on their computers.

You would have thought that a prep school would understand that a library is more than books.

Playing With Fire

Free speech or one of the many forms of contributory copyright infringement? Civil disobedience and Tenenbaum. Music ‘infringer’ targeted again (pdf)

[I]n one corner of cyberspace, Tenenbaum is now “DJ Joel,’’ and anyone who shares his love of Nirvana, Green Day, and Eminem – and his antipathy toward the Recording Industry Association of America – can illegally download “The $675,000 Mixtape’’ and get the very songs he was sued for sharing.

Although there is no evidence that Tenenbaum was responsible for putting the playlist on The Pirate Bay, a Swedish file-sharing service, the record companies have accused him of defiantly encouraging further illegal downloading by linking to the service directly, from a website created for his defense.

Another Voice Heard From

Amazon joins opposition to Google book deal

“The proposed settlement usurps the role of Congress in legislating solutions to the complex issues raised by the interplay between new technologies and the nations copyright laws,” Amazon said in its filing, which was dated Tuesday.

Amazon also argued that the book registry envisioned in the settlement could constitute price-fixing.

Living In A Technological Culture

One more version of privacy that we can hardly name, much less have a meaningful policy discussion about. Although, let’s do give credit when a topic like this gets a few column inches: A Casualty of the Technology Revolution – ‘Locational Privacy’ (pdf)

When I woke up the other day, I went straight to my computer to catch up on the news and read e-mail. About 20 minutes later, I walked half a block to the gym, where I exercised for 45 minutes. I took the C train to The New York Times building, and then at the end of the day, I was back on the C train. I had dinner on my friends Elisabeth and Dan’s rooftop, then walked home seven blocks.

I’m not giving away any secrets here — nothing I did was secret to begin with. Verizon online knows when I logged on, and New York Sports Club knows when I swiped my membership card. The M.T.A. could trace through the MetroCard I bought with a credit card when and where I took the subway, and The Times knows when I used my ID to enter the building. AT&T could follow me along the way through my iPhone.

[…] A little-appreciated downside of the technology revolution is that, mainly without thinking about it, we have given up “locational privacy.” Even in low-tech days, our movements were not entirely private. The desk attendant at my gym might have recalled seeing me, or my colleagues might have remembered when I arrived. Now the information is collected automatically and often stored indefinitely.

[…] The idea of constantly monitoring the citizenry’s movements used to conjure up images of totalitarian states. Now, technology does the surveillance — generally in the name of being helpful. It’s time for a serious conversation about how much of our privacy of movement we want to give up.