Stanford Picked for Google Fiber Beta Test

I suppose most everyone around here will remember Greensboro’s efforts last March to lure Google into choosing us for a high-speed broadband network.

Well, last week Google announced that

Stanford is the first area Google has picked to get a high-speed broadband network. . . .  The network, which could deliver speeds up to 1 gigabit a second, will be built for residents of Stanford’s Residential Subdivision, an area adjacent to the California institution where members of the university faculty and staff live.  Construction is expected to begin in early 2011, Google said.

But, Greensboro is not out of the running yet.   Read this:

Google stressed that this is not, however, the first town to receive such a network through the selection process it announced earlier this year for Google Fiber, which prompted all sorts of silly publicity stunts from mayors and townspeople trying to get Google to build them a fast network.  That process still continues, with Google due to make the first selections by the end of this year.

Here’s another news item on the same topic from the Fresno Bee.

Anyway, keep those fingers crossed for Greensboro!

The Future of eBooks in Libraries: The Coming Revolution for the Book

“Das Buch ist nicht tot!”  The book is not dead.  So reads a sign in old German typeface which hangs in my cube, given to me awhile back by one of my librarian colleagues.

And while that sentiment may well be accurate, we’re nonetheless at the beginnings of a sea-change for the book, probably the most dramatic change since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century.  For the “codex” (the basic format of the modern book with separate pages bound together, which supplanted scrolls by the 6th century AD) is at last beginning to be displaced — by a book in digital form.

In case you don’t know, they call these new digital or electronic books “ebooks.”     

Late last month, journalist and media expert Ken Auletta published a much talked about article in the New Yorker which addresses the pricing of ebooks and how this has been especially influenced by competition between Amazon and Apple.  Though Auletta estimates ebooks to represent no more than 3-5% of book sales at present, sales grew 177% last year and could eventually account for 25-50% of all book sales.  Obviously, whoever can control the ebooks market can make a lot of money.     

Auletta tells a fascinating story.  For the last several years, Amazon, as he recounts, has been selling ebooks which can be viewed on Amazon’s own reading device called the Kindle.  It’s now estimated there may be as many as three million Kindles out there. 

But in order to gain market share and sell Kindles, Amazon was actually selling ebooks for less ($9.99) than they were paying for them ($13.00).  Publishers felt this was too low and would eventually hurt their profits by devaluing ebooks.  And they were also concerned about an Amazon monopoly.         

To the publishers’ rescue has thus come Apple and its much ballyhooed iPad, which, among other things, can also function as an ebook reader.  Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs has managed to fashion an agreement with five of the six top U.S. publishers to price ebooks at what is for them a more satisfactory $14.99.  (Giving publishers control over pricing is referred to as the “agency model.”)  In addition, the iPad offers a multi-media potential which the Kindle lacks — for example, with an iPad you could be reading a book and then link to an associated video clip.     

Also in the future ebooks equation is Google and their Google Books project.  Google, as many of you will know, has digitized millions of books.  Though the project, which has ambitions to be literally the largest library in the world, has become bogged down in litigation over copyright and other issues, there are nonetheless plans to open an ebooks store called Google Editions later this year.  Google will allow the publishers to set their own prices for ebooks, and Google’s ebooks have the advantage of being readable on any device.       

How all of this will ultimately shake out (as well as how quickly) is unclear.  As Auletta pointed out in a follow-up interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Apple’s iTunes application (introduced in 2001) challenged the free-for-all/pirating culture of the internet by introducing the notion of paying for content.  Now, much as with the music business, publishers are seizing upon another Apple development (the iPad) as a way to breathe a new digital life into an “old media” industry which, in order to survive, must somehow be paid for digital content.        

Auletta said nothing about what all this may mean for libraries.  His focus was more upon the symbiotic fates of the publishing industry and independent booksellers.  But there is likely to be an effect upon libraries, and it could be substantial.

First of all, and though print will be the principal medium for books for at least a few more years, we have to assume that ebooks will nonetheless gradually evolve into the medium of choice for many library readers, and they will want free access to these ebooks.  But will libraries be able to afford to provide new fiction and non-fiction bestsellers in digital form to its readers if they must pay publishers $10-15 for each download?

Secondly, if a dedicated device such as an iPad or a Kindle is required to download an ebook, will libraries be able to buy these devices and loan them to patrons who cannot afford them?  And if this proves impractical, how will libraries ensure access to ebooks for less affluent patrons who cannot afford the special devices necessary to view them?      

Another issue is the possibility that some publishers (or even authors themselves, bypassing publishers) may go straight to digital publishing, perhaps not even producing print editions of books.  Digital publishing, as a music industry phenomenon for example, drove many retail music sellers out of business.  How can libraries ensure that the same fate does not befall them and the digital divide between information haves and have-nots does not widen even further?

Lastly, even if libraries are able to resolve ebook access problems, there will still be information literacy issues.  Patrons, many of whom may have inadequate computer skills, must be taught how to download ebooks and use the devices necessary to view them.                    

Of the options which libraries will undoubtedly explore in their efforts to provide access to ebooks, one will likely be the formation of consortia.  Consortia afford a model whereby libraries can share costs and jointly provide access.  Even now, through the NCLive network, Greensboro Public Library and most other libraries across the state of North Carolina have access to tens of thousands of full text newspaper, magazine, and journal articles, as well as books and even videos.  And several thousand audio and electronic books are already available through the North Carolina Digital Library

As for the special devices needed to view many ebooks (if indeed the necessity of a dedicated device, contra Google, becomes the norm), it does seem likely that the cost of these devices should drop dramatically over time — much as other technologies such as calculators, televisions, etc. — and perhaps much sooner than we think.

Here at Greensboro Public Library, information literacy is already a major focus, and each week our reference staff teach classes on how to use personal computers, the internet, Microsoft Word, and so forth.  As we move further toward a future in which the use of ebooks will be commonplace, we will probably need to incorporate classes on how to use ebooks and/or dedicated ebook readers into our already intensive information literacy efforts — at least during the coming period in which virtually all of us will have to transition from print to digital.         

Anyway, za book may not be dead.  But it’s changing mighty fast, and libraries and librarians need to start thinking about its future before events overtake them.

Greensboro’s Google Fiber Efforts are Making a Difference!

As the deadline for submitting the Google Fiber Request for Information draws near, Greensboro’s efforts are attracting national notice, including mention by PC Magazine, which picked up on our YouTube video.

And this post from localtechwire suggests we’re one of the top ten cities in the country making a pitch, based on a “share of voice” analysis made by Steketee Greiner and Company.

You can view their whole report here.    

With an estimated 600 towns and cities across the country competing for Google’s ultra-high speed broadband, we need all the help we can get!

But based on the knowledge I have of the content of Greensboro’s RFI, I think we’ll have an advantage because we’ve emphasized what we can do for Google, and not what Google can do for us. 

Only time will tell though.  Google’s selection of its test cities and/or towns is expected this Fall.

Go Greensboro!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

News Flash! Google Fiber Application to be Submitted Live at 6:10 PM at Natty Greene’s!

City to SUBMIT Google Fiber Application LIVE during Celebration Event

WHO:  The City of Greensboro and supporters of the Google Fiber Initiative

WHAT:  The City of Greensboro to Submit Google Application at Final Mobile Tour Stop

Over the last few weeks, the City of Greensboro has made several stops at high-traffic areas to increase awareness and drive residents to nominate Greensboro for Google’s ultra-high speed Internet connection.  In a final push to draw support for the Google Fiber initiative, the City of Greensboro has scheduled a final mobile tour stop at Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Co.

At 6:10 p.m., as supporters look on, Councilmember Danny Thompson will hit “SEND” and submit Greensboro’s formal community Google Fiber application live from Natty Greene’s.

Laptops will also be available for the public to submit nominations for Greensboro.  Individual resident nominations will be accepted until 8 p.m. The first 30 to nominate the Gate City will receive a Google Fiber T-Shirt (while supplies last).

WHEN:  Friday, March 26, 2010.  Mobile Tour Stop will be open from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.  Formal application will be submitted live at 6:10 p.m.

WHERE:  The second level (upstairs) at Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Co., 345 S. Elm St.

WHY:  Google is planning to launch its fiber-optic system in one or more trial locations across the country.  Google Fiber will be an ultra high-speed broadband network — 100 times faster than what most Americans have today.

Wiki for Community Input on the Google Fiber Application

Just to let interested folks know, a draft of the narrative sections of Greensboro’s Google Fiber Application or Request for Information (RFI) has just been posted on-line in a wiki.

Each of the four sections were broken up into shorter paragraphs in the last draft I saw — not sure why those weren’t preserved here.  But the information is at least there.   

Just follow this link to the wiki.  Feel free to add your own ideas. 

Remember, wikis are collaborative, so anybody can add-to, edit and/or modify the document.

The Push to Attract Google Fiber to Greensboro: What Makes Us So Special?

In case you haven’t heard, the City of Greensboro is making a major effort to attract Google’s ultra-high speed broadband project, known as “Google Fiber for Communities” or “Google Fiber” for short.

This is what Google says it is going to do in their official blog:

We’re planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

Greensboro of course would love to be one of the “small number of trial locations across the United States” which are selected — the advantages for economic development alone could be tremendous.  But we’ve got to beat out plenty of other cities if we want to attract them here.

So, what makes Greensboro special? 

For one thing, the city has a large and active blogging community, indicative of the deep penetration information technology has made into the community as a whole.  Aided by blog aggregators We101 and Greensboro101, local bloggers compete with mainstream media as sources for news and information.  Greensboro is also the location of Converge South, an annual “community-driven, community-supported Tech Users Conference” very popular with bloggers. 

Another reason is Greensboro’s embrace of the “new urbanism” concept, which stresses mixed-use, “walkable” neighborhoods.  The redevelopment of downtown has included Greensboro’s new Center City Park, neighborhoods such as Southside, which mix business fronts with condominiums, and, when completed, it will also include our Bicentennial Greenway, a trail which will form a loop around downtown Greensboro.  Revitalized urban living will attract a younger, hipper, tech-savvy set to Greensboro and further extend the penetration of information technology into the community.         

Developers and other community leaders also recognize the importance of conservation and sustainability.  These values manifested themselves in the recent construction of Greensboro’s Proximity Hotel and adjoining bistro — now regarded as “the nation’s most energy efficient and environmentally gentle hotel complex.”  Local support for sustainable development is also encouraged by organizations such as the Triad Green Building Council, and the Piedmont Triad Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.  The City of Greensboro has recently made a commitment to reduce energy consumption by nearly 30%, and a Community Sustainability Council created in 2008 helps formulate and suggest strategies to City Council on a variety of environmental issues.  Lastly, organizations such as the Piedmont Environmental Alliance and Sustainable Greensboro also further our community’s pledge to the environment. 

Greensboro’s strong commitment to diversity is another reason to select us.  African Americans hold key leadership positions throughout city government.  Our universities and colleges include two historically black institutions.  And the City of course takes great pride in its connection to the Woolworth sit-ins and the recently opened International Civil Rights Center & Museum.  In addition, Greensboro’s Latino population continues to grow, and, in the 2000 Census, Guilford County led North Carolina counties in refugee resettlement.  

Still another reason for Google to select us:  the large number of visitors we attract.  For instance, though the Greensboro Coliseum is no longer the sole venue of the popular Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, this facility often plays host to events of regional and even national importance.  Other attractions for visitors include the historic Blandwood Mansion, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Greensboro Historical Museum, Greensboro Children’s Museum, and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.  The choice of Greensboro for Google Fiber will mean our many visitors will return to their homes and communities with word of this impressive technology and how it has transformed our city.

Plenty of other features of our community also recommend us.

For instance, Greensboro is unusual for a city of its size in having no less than seven institutions of higher learning (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, N.C. Agricultural & Technical University, Guilford College, Greensboro College, Bennett College, Elon University Law School and the Greensboro Campus of Guilford Technical Community College).  Combined, these universities and colleges make a valuable contribution to research, innovation, culture, and the arts in our community.          

Traditionally known as the “Gate City,” owing to its role as a railroad hub as early as the 1850s and the city’s central location in the State of North Carolina, Greensboro has also recently been chosen as a regional distribution center by FedEx.  When the company’s package-sorting operations are fully phased in, FedEx’s Greensboro facility is expected to anchor its operations on the East Coast.

Anybody who lives here could of course think of plenty of other reasons for Google to choose us — such as our excellent health care led by the Moses Cone Health System.

But I think you get the idea.  Greensboro’s simply a great place to live and we’ve got a wonderful community. 

So, c’mon Google, give us a chance!