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Librarian Blog

Still too expensive for some people

I know many of us tend to take Internet connectivity at home for granted.
However, I do run into quite a few people here at the library who don't have Internet connections at their homes. Usually that's because a service is just not available out where they live in the Hill Country.
Excluding those folks, there are still a relatively large number of people in the United States who don't have access even if they could.
They don't because they can't afford it.
That's according to the newest survey undertaken by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
By far the majority of people who aren't connected say they don't need to access the Internet. But almost as large a number say cost is a factor.
I'm not sure how to fix that.
One way, of course, is for those who can't use or get the Internet at home to just come on by the library and use one of our secure connections.
It's absolutely free of charge.

Another death in the family

Bumper stickers are as dead as Latin.
And now comes another doomsayer to suggest that they will be joined on the trash heap of forgotten means of communication -- ALARM! -- the telephone call.
Timothy Noah, writing in the Sept. 18 issue of Slate, says it's past time to write the obituary for the phone call after all these scores of years being awakened in the middle of the night by a jailed child, for example, or sitting by the black object on your coffee table to hear about the arrival of your newest grandbaby.
Texting is the new way to message. "Message" is now a verb, by the way.
I do not and will not lament the passing of the phone call.
My hearing is not what it once was, and talking on the telephone is neither fun nor informative for me these days.
When I outgrew those long phone conversations of my teen-age years, I never liked communicating by phone very much, even though I was a reporter for quite some time and the phone was our tool of choice. After I became an editor I counseled by reporters not to use the phone so much, to get out and do face-to-face interviews. They hated doing that, for the most part. I can't imagine they now sit in their offices and text interviews, but I can sure see them doing a lot of interviews via email.
Oh well.
We seem to live in a world wherein real human contact is to be increasingly avoided.
Have a comment?
Don't call.

On the other hand ...

The high cost of textbooks is one thing. The new publisher ripoff called purchase access codes is another.
On the other hand altogether, there's the OpenStax online publication effort by Rice University.
Rice just released a report showing that 1.5 million college students have used a free text from OpenStax at a total savings of more than $70 million.
That's just involving 25 books, all of which are designed for introductory courses.
Yeah, but that's a huge start, isn't it?

An abandoned form of speech

Political candidates may use bumper sticker slogans more now than ever, but they don't get them off bumper stickers anymore.
At least around this part of Texas, no cars have bumper stickers.
Oh, once in awhile you'll see a sticker that says "Keep Austin Weird" or "Keep Wimberley Weirder," but those are also fading away -- literally.
Four years ago, I saw only a few bumper stickers for the major party candidates, and my wife and I even had one on our only car.
Today? I see none, and I have none.
I suspect other folks are like me: They fear having their cars keyed or otherwise smashed because of what they might have on their bumper.
It's just that nasty out there, isn't it?
Too bad it's come to this.
(That sounds like a pretty good bumper sticker in and of itself, right?)

A new textbook fee

Many college profs do worry about how much it is costing students to take their classes.
They know that college costs have risen dramatically and that state aid has been reduced substantially in recent years. And they know that students have had to borrow unprecedented amounts of money to pay for their higher educations.
Some seem to know that a key factor in rising costs is related to textbook costs, so some of them are using open-source books to save students money. Some are not requiring texts at all, although that's pretty hard to do in some disciplines.
So what are enterprising text/materials publishers to do in the face of this revenue stream decline?
Well, rest assured they don't plan to lose money.
Come now "access fees."
Students have to pay these fees to access texts and related materials that professors require -- on the internet.
The New York Times reported Sunday that about a third of courses in a recent survey required students to buy these codes at a cost of about $100 each.
The publishers may think this is enterprising. I call it exploitation. Professors should be in the corner of their students, not in the pockets of the publishers.
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