Monday, April 6, 2009

Netbooks and Libraries

There was a recent very interesting article in the New York Times about Netbooks.

According to the article Netbooks are going to be the next revolution in the computer industry. Soon Netbooks will be available for around $100. Because of the low cost it is predicted that Netbooks will soon be a common sight.

This could have a profound impact on the computer industry for several reasons. One, the Netbooks, don't use Intel processors which have dominated the chip market for the last decade. Secondly, and more importantly, most Netbooks run on Linux.

I recently had a patron come into the library I work at with a new Netbook. She wanted help downloading a electronic book from My Media Mall and she couldn't figure out what was wrong. I took one look at her Netbook and could see that it was running Linux. I had to explain to her that the Overdrive Media software used by My Media Mall isn't compatible with Linux.

This patron had no idea what I was talking about. She had never heard of Linux. She thought she was running Windows because that's what it looked like to her. I ended up taking awhile to explain to her what an Operating System was, licensing costs, and Microsoft vs. the Linux open source movement. I "think" she sort of understood what I was talking about by the time she left.

What I ask myself is this. What would most librarians do in this situation? How many librarians are out there that know how to support Linux? Or for that matter even recognize it when they see it? If the Netbook revolution is indeed coming I'm afraid a number of librarians are going to need to learn a little about Linux very quickly.