:—) internet guide
Scottish bookworms get connected
If the Net tickles your sense of discovery but terrifres your ﬁnancial sensibilities. public libraries could be the answer, as Eddie Gibb discovers.
While Bill Gates has suggested a PC in every home is the way the future will look. the shorter-term reality is that the information superhighway is by-passing whole sections of the population. Cyber cafes have gone some way to opening up the lntemet to people without the cash or inclination to buy a home computer and all the trimmings. but public libraries — traditionally suppliers of free information in book form — are waking up to their role in the electronic future.
Glasgow and Edinburgh library services went on-line last year and are running pilot studies to look at how the lntemet could be made available. At this stage only staff are being trained to use the Net. but both cities are committed to offering public
lntemet access through libraries. There are one or two obstacles to be clarnbered over before that can happen. however. The cost of computer hardware and concern about who would access what are not least
among them. Staffin Glasgow's Mitchell Library are already using the Internet regularly
for research. and there are a number of publicly-accessible PCs dotted around the building. At the moment this internal computer network is only used to play CD-Roms or search the library's electronic catalogue. but it would be technically fairly easy to also offer lnternct access.
Two of the biggest concerns are
copyright infringement — a major grey area on the Net — and what would amount to public subsidy ofcornputer pomography. So far no policy on these issues has been formulated. Until it has. Glasgow is unwilling to give the public the run of the lntemet via its computer terminals. One possible solution is the use of ‘nanny' programmes limiting access to certain kinds of information, such as porn. However, a pilot project in lslington. one of a handful of London library services offering public lntemet access, showed that users accessing pornography was not a problem. Edinburgh is also at the stage of allowing library staffa glimpse ofthe future. but is unsure when public access might happen. The Craigrnillar Community lnforrnation Service has been working for more than a year to link community groups electronically and is in the process of setting up its own Web site containing community information. In the longer term it could also become an lntemet service provider for community groups. Borders libraries have introduced a PC with lntemet links to one ofits mobile libraries in an EC-funded trial continuing until September. Despite teething problems with the hardware. the library service is determined to widen lntemet access. 'lt‘s something we believe we have to do to survive.‘ says Borders librarian Lisa Hodgson. echoing the sentiments of libraries around the country.
ILLL’S'I‘RATH )N: Si lAUN Mt‘LAREN
As Glasgow prepares to open its first cyber cafe, Gill Harris discovers the city is already forging ahead with the latest in wired bookshops. It certainly is a strange old world. Just as we were getting used to the idea of leaning over the virtual fence and gossiping with our global neighbours in those new—fangled places called Internet cafes. we‘re suddenly bombarded with the latest in cyberphenomena: lntemet bookshOps.
Dillons in London was the first bookshop in this country to give lntemet access to the public.
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, I UKONLINE l . . trying to get onlme
a lntemet access, e-mail, magazines, clubs... can
for your free trial software
1‘ and we have local call access for Edinburgh and Glasgow .,
it’s fast, it’s fun, it’s for everyone!
22 The List l2-25 Jan 1996
According to its homepage. it promises expert help and extends a special welcome to newbies (first time users) and children. It's a bit on the pricey side. though. at £3 for half an hour and £l for every ten minutes thereafter. subject to availability. With such strict time allotments and high prices. Dillons' eight terminals must be in great demand.
The second of Britain's lntcrnet bookshops is to be found in Glasgow and is the city's only public lnternct provider. John Smith 8; Son bookshops has
just three terminals and is delighted at how popular
its new service has been. Its most regular users are students and people using the Net for work-related purposes. So. it seems bookshops attract. perhaps not surprisingly. the intellectual upper-crust of the surfing community. Although John Smith's opening hours are more limited than the average cyber cafe. it provides exactly the satire service and its prices are competitive. And with such instant popularity.
this. surely. must bejust the beginning.
So apparently. bookshops need no longer conjure up that old world image of hushed respect for ancient tomes and epic masterpieces. From now on. you can browse through the shelves and browse the Web all in one visit. You can pick up a copy ofthe complete works of Chaucer and stop off for half an hour to surf for random generated haikus.
Now that the traditional publishing format dating back to papyrus has merged with the very latest in publishing technology, one might well ask, where next? ‘A bottle ofClaret and what's the address for Bell's whisky. please‘." or ‘a gallon of lead—free and could I send a quick e-mail too'." Who knows, for just as we thought we'd reached the final frontier. it seems that cyberspace is. after all. infinite. All hail the brave new world.
.lo/m Smith & Sons, 57-—6/ St Vincent Street. (IlusgturUI-l/ 22/ 7472.
Visit Scotland's largest Bookshop
www; http://www.almac.co.uk/business_park /thin/thinhome.htm