Digital Skills: Unlocking the Information Society by Jan A.G.M. van Dijk

Digital Skills: Unlocking the Information SocietyDigital Skills: Unlocking the Information Society by Jan A. G. M. van Dijk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got this book because I believed it would support research I am working on this semester about the digital divide and libraries. It certainly accomplished this and so much more. As someone who has spent a fair number of years helping people of all ages and backgrounds to gain digital skills in order to improve their lives, this book provided some really interesting context for my work. While I always had my suspicions and ideas on how people learned and why they learned, I had never done much research to support these theories rolling around in my head. The empirical research done in this field was fascinating to read. The framework suggested by these authors to more effectively tackle the issue of the second level digital divide that we are now facing (skills deficits contributing to the marginalization of certain groups) makes sense to me and has me considering fundamental shifts in how I tackle this issue in my own work moving forward.

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A Librarian’s First Thoughts About Freading

My library recently decided to launch Freading as a service to cardholders. I had heard of the pay-as-you-go model of ebook lending for libraries, but hadn’t ever played around with it until early this morning. It will go live to the public in a couple of weeks and I want to get nice and cozy with it now before I’m asked questions or try to promote it.


Fairly simple website to navigate.

Book covers make up the online shopping experience, which makes browsing very easy to do. One click on the book opens the description and the option to download.

No ads! I am personally (these are my own views and not those of my employer) disgusted by the commercials and ads in the recent “upgrades” of Overdrive. I also have really queasy feelings about how my reading preferences are being tracked, manipulated, and shared when I buy from Amazon and Barnes & Noble too. Freading might be doing the same thing, but at least it isn’t a commercialized browsing experience.

Search bar is simple to use – Freading picked three categories to search from and I like it. Title, author, category. I didn’t miss advanced searching at all.

Pay-per-download model makes great sense from a library’s perspective. There has always been and will always be a fear whenever I am responsible for buying a cart of books of “what if some of these NEVER get checked out?” This takes away the fear and guarantees that the money spent is going toward putting stories in the hands of the public.

Always something available. The freading catalog shows titles which can be downloaded immediately (assuming the Library’s pre-set limit hasn’t been met yet). This eliminates the constant user frustration that is often experienced when it “feels” as if every title that looks good is already checked out because the process to change the view to only available items is too darn complicated for the average reader.

Works on multiple devices – I haven’t dug deep to find the exhaustive list, but the app is available in the apple store and the android store and the end reading result and the website browsing experience on my Nexus tablet were both excellent.

delta (or things that could use changing):

I would have liked if there were a few customizable options to at least include the library’s logo and help with user’s question – Is this right? Am I in the right place? Is this still the free library way of getting ebooks onto my device?

Token system is awkward. It is a strange ranking system which indicates how much the library has to pay in order for the user to download a particular book. It feels strange, it isn’t explained well on the website, and it leaves me going — huh?

Pub dates are not listed in the book description. I decided to look for books to help me tackle my high cholesterol problem. No books were available on cholesterol, but there is a category for heart health. There were two books which seemed extremely similar by their descriptions and their book covers – but one was 4 tokens while the other was 1.

Book preview options are unavailable. It’s an all or nothing download system. If I could have previewed the few pages of the above mentioned heart health books – I could have made a better judgement call on which book was my best option and I could have looked up the pub dates for myself.

Fiction titles are not my cup of tea. I was much more impressed with the non-fiction selections and categories than on the fiction selections. In fact, I looked really hard in the mystery section and could only find a few authors I liked.

First time download experience was a bit clunky. I can’t believe Adobe Digital Editions is still the mechanism being used. It was clunky years ago when I got my first generation nook, and it is still a bit awkward with its activating requirements. I somehow managed to download my title twice — and I’m guessing the library was charged twice. How was I even allowed to accidentally do that? itunes doesn’t let me screw up like that — I hope that is changed in the near future.

So overall – this isn’t a perfect system, but it is one that I am glad my library is trying. It will be interesting to hear what patrons think and if this helps ease their frustrations with the current models that exist. I will certainly use it for personal use from now on and look forward to getting others to give it a whorl.