Thursday, July 27, 2006

Read this book: The Change Function

I never completely got over being a reference/reader's advisory librarian, so here's my recommendation for your summer reading list: The Change Function: Why Some Technologies Take Off and Others Crash and Burn, by Pip Coburn (Portfolio, 2006. ISBN 1-59184-132-1, OCLC #62888357).

Coburn's main contention is that technology for technology's sake is a loser's game. This seems like a "duh..." idea until he starts to describe all the products that have been created just because they could be, without thinking of potential actual users. (Don't get him started on picture phones!) His belief is that companies need to be customer centric in all ways at all times, and he demonstrates many applications of this idea.

So why is this important to libraries? Because we can fall prey to this, too. If any technology we introduce doesn't reduce a person's pain points or solve a real problem they face, and if it isn't simple and non-threatening to adopt, it won't be adopted. No amount of hand-wringing by our technologists or placing the blame on the user is going to change that.

Of course, it isn't just the librarians who need to understand this. We who sell to you in the library field have to understand this, too, and all too often, we don't. Books like this can help us see this issue in a new light.

There's an excellent post/review of this book by Michael Casey over at LibraryCrunch.


Eric said...

N.B. here's the Open WorldCat link to the book, The Change Function: Why Some Technologies Take Off and Others Crash and Burn. Go forth, and find it in library, gentle readers. (Note: for those wanting a copy from my local library, CMPL, race me! ;)

George said...

I hate to admit this, but I couldn't find the Open WorldCat link for this title. I need a refresher course from Eric.

And by the way, Eric, I have one of the Columbus Metro Library's copies of this book sitting on my desk!

Anonymous said...

Esme Vos of Muniwireless has a review of this book on her blog. Go to