Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Library Group to Acquire Readmill Assets

uixoticTechcrunch is reporting that a group of librarians known as the "ALA ThinkTank" has acquired the assets of shuttered startup Readmill. The new owners will turn the website and apps into a "library books in the cloud" site for library patrons.

Over the weekend, Readmill announced that it had been "acqui-hired" by cloud storage startup DropBox, and that its app and website would cease functioning on July 1. "Many challenges in the world of ebooks remain unsolved, and we failed to create a sustainable platform for reading" said Readmill founder Henrik Berggren, in his farewell message to site members. "Failure to have a sustainable platform for reading really resonates with librarians" responded ThinkTank co-founder J.P. Porcaro. "It's a match made in heaven - devoted users, quixotic economics, and lots of books to distract the staff." Porcaro will serve as CEO of the new incarnation of Readmill.

New Readmill CEO J. P. Porcaro
The acquisition also solves a problem Porcaro had been wrestling with- how to spend the group's Bitcoin millions. Far from its present incarnation as a Social Enterprise/Facebook Group hybrid, ALA ThinkTank originated as a solution for housing destitute librarians from New Jersey during the bi-annual conventions of the American Library Association. The group figured that by renting a house instead of renting hotel rooms, they could save money, learn from peers and throw great parties. The accompanying off-the-grid commerce in "assets" was never intended- it just sort of happened.

One of the librarians was friends with Penn State grad student Ross Ulbricht, who convinced the group to use Bitcoin for the purchase and sale of beer, pizza and "ebooks". "He kept talking about  piracy and medieval trade routes" reported Porcaro, "We thought he was normal ... though in retrospect it was kinda weird when he asked about using hitmen to collect overdue book fines."

The 10,000 fold increase in the value of ThinkTank's Bitcoin account over the past four years caught almost everyone completely off guard. The parties, which in past years were low rent, jeans-and-cardigan affairs, have morphed into multi-story "party hearty" extravaganzas packed with hipster librarians body-pierced with bitcoin encrusted baubles and wearing precious-metal badge ribbons.

Porcaro expects that Readmill's usage will skyrocket with the new management. He thinks that ALA ThinkTank's heady mix of critical pedagogy, "weeding" advice, gaming makerspaces, drink-porn, management theory, gender angst and a whiff of scandal are sure to "make it happen" for the moribund social reading site, which has suffered from the general boringness of books.

ThinkTank members are already hard at work planning the transition. A 13-step procedure that will allow Readmill users to keep their books exactly as they are has been spec-ed out by one library vendor. "If you like your ebooks you can keep them" Porcaro assured me. "If you don't like them, we can send them to India for you. Or Lafourche, Louisiana, your choice."

The backlash against the new Readmill has already begun. "Library books in the cloud is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. How will people know which bits are theirs, and which need to be returned? How will we do inter-library loan? What will happen if it rains?" complained one senior library director who declined to be identified. "How will we get our books returned then?" she asked. "I don't even know HOW to hire a hitman."

In a press release, Scott Turow, past president of the Authors Guild, expressed his horror at the idea of "library books in the cloud." "Once again, librarians are scheming to take food out of the mouths of authors emaciated by hunger. These poor authors are dying miserable deaths, knowing that their copyrighted works are being misused and unread in this way. Library books in a cloud of nerve gas, more like!"

The American Library Association, which is completely unaffiliated with ALA ThinkTank, has formed a committee to study the cloud library ebook phenomenon.

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