While American libraries sprint to digitize their books, one Japanese library is using technology to enhance the experience of reading ink and paper.
The Hanno library in Japan has just enabled a new use of near-field communication, or NFC. NFC is a wireless technology, sort of like a low-power Bluetooth that can transfer very small amounts of information just by tapping (learn more about it in our primer). That might be a URL or a payment–pretty small-fry considering what Bluetooth can do these days, but the key to NFC is that the item that’s sending information doesn’t need any power whatsoever. So you can have a badge or a sticker that delivers information to your phone with a tap.
The library has installed about 100 tags, called “Tatchitagu,” on its shelves, provided by Fujitsu. Visitors to the library can tap their phones on the tags to get all kinds of cool information–Wikipedia links to authors, pictures, and reviews, to start, but also access to services. If you want to review books, or recommend them to other readers, just tap and type.
Even better, the system lets you check out books or add them to a sort of wish list so you can remember to check them out later. No need to jot it down in a notebook, just tap. Pretty cool.
In Japan, phones with NFC are much more common than they are here–the tech is used not just in libraries, but to replace credit cards, subway passes, and all kinds of other stuff. That’s on its way to us in the States as well; successful Android phones like the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 are equipped with NFC, though its use isn’t as widespread here.