The future digital library

US libraries are moving to explore new digital media, with some library districts banding together to create digital collections that can be accessed from anywhere.

Phoenix Public Library has launched a digital collection which lets library card holders access, browse, download and borrow an audiobook, from wherever they are without need for a computer.

Depending on the library and title, the item remains on your computer for one to three weeks before disappearing, meaning you don’t have to bother with returning a book, CD or DVD to the actual library.

One of the main distributors to libraries is OverDrive, based in Cleveland, which has deals with publishers including HarperCollins and Random House as well as music labels like Alligator Records.

Alongside the advantage of convenience for end users, these digital collections offer another – they reduce the need for shelf space and are open twenty-four hours a day.

While this may appear off the beaten track, what is important is that these experiments maintain the relevance of the library system in the digital age, begging the question as to how we can ensure all people continue to enjoy the kind of access to content in the future as we have done from the library system.

The challenge of digital is that it could end up enforcing a digital divide, in which many users never get access to the kind of materials they need, on account of not being able to afford the cost, the relevant access device, and the libraries closing down.

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