Was reading some good news the other week from our friends in Egypt who were talking about a book fair they were having, and it indeed is a good thing to have these. Besides a moment of being able to swap, share, and purchase books across authors and subjects you might have normally come across, its another aspect of sharing something that God’s given you with someone who might not have had access to the same materials.
Of course, that got me thinking on the lines of electronic books, ebooks, and how we’d probably not hear too much about book fairs where people are swaping, sharing, and purchasing these. The model for ebooks doesn’t seem to make something like this happen easily. Then again, there is the lending feature that some ebook services offer, and that does point to something that could be done here.
I thought a bit further, and my thoughts asked about my experiences and the testimonies with the Kiosk Evangelism Project, Door43, and Open Church. These are all projects which aim to make available some of the depth of locally- and globally-produced text, audio, and video material using technologies developed in and around the Internet. What if these kinds of projects could be extended to the idea of a eBook book fair? What could that look like?
First, there’d have to be some kind of library of content. If I’m thinking like the Kiosk Evangelism Project, then that should definitely be a few Seagate GoFlex Satellites configured in a room, with numbered SSIDs (for example [book fair name] a-d #1, [book fair name] e-j #2, etc.). This would enable those participating to at least be able to identify from their connected devices that content is available. I’d also have some kind of moderator there with a central laptop (?) that has all of the content on that device which would be used to transfer content to those persons who have devices which aren’t able to connect to the GoFlex units. I’d probably opt to have them organized by subject, rather than author, with that central laptop admin being the “librarian” – helping with searches, connecting to the LAN, etc.
Second, I’d have the GoFlex units labeled on a table with chairs and snacks around them. I’d probably do something fun like a scavenger hunt or something like a “speed dating” effect where people only sit in a space for a little bit of time. I’d encourage them to talk with each other about what they are downloading, what they like, and what they don’t. Probably having some kind of survey to be filled out afterwards (low tech with paper, high tech via SMS).
Lastly, I’d turn it into something of a traveling book fair and connect with the local worship centers and schools asking them to have prepared resources they’d like for people to be able to download and read. From the main laptop, I’d want to provision the libraries with that material before the book fair gets started. And (if possible) give them some kind of report (EpiSurveyor) towards what people downloaded and if there were any reported problems with that content (low tech paper, or high tech SMS again).
Thinking about this more, one could actually skip the LAN server piece, and just hand out memory cards with random selections to each table of people, do a once-over on how to share the content via Bluetooth or card swapping, and make a ebook fair happen on the level of each table. But, then ask people to remember a marker that was on their card and move to another table after a certain amount of time. At the end of the session, the memory card they have in hand is what they get to keep and they are just asked to do the same kind of sharing with friends/family/co-workers.
It feels like this would be a good way to show that our mobile/connected devices can be included within these kinds of social situations. We’d also see something of a different conversation when some people might decide to download some books but request others in print. In this way we can serve two kinds of readers, while electronically having the audio and video files that speak to those who might prefer something less textual.
What are your thoughts? Any reason why this wouldn’t be a good idea? Or, would anyone be interested in trying to make this happen (connect with us and let’s see what can happen)?