Predicting things is a game for mugs and gamblers; doing it in a written format is really within the domain of the entirely insane or overly confident. However, it's also a lot of fun, so I thought I would point out a variety of things that I suspect will happen in the upcoming 12 months in lots of different areas. Feel free to use the comments option to berate me on my stupidity or praise me for me thoughtfulness! In no particular order:
1. We're going to see a rise in augmented reality. There are already plenty of apps available for this, such as Aurasma which I've been playing with. Very easy to use, it's the next development on from QR codes. How about a librarian being able to pop right up on your smartphone and tell you how to search a database, or recommend a particular book? Or guide you around the library? This is no longer in the realm of science fiction, but already taking place - there's a good guide to some of the top augmented reality apps which may be of interest to you.
2. Google is going to continue to downgrade the search functionality of its search engine. We've seen this over the past few years, and I have no reason to think that anything is going to change. If we still have the advanced search function at the end of the year I'll be quite surprised.
3. Search engines will continue to be developed but their selling point is going to be on safety and security, to say nothing of privacy. 2014 is going to become the year when privacy really takes centre stage, and we'll continue to see it decrease. While people will complain about it, they are not doing to do a great deal about it, since the advantages of using Facebook or getting more focussed results on Google will outweigh their concerns.
4. Facebook numbers will begin to plateau - simply because anyone who wants Facebook will already have it. However, what we will see is that people will increasingly use Facebook for different reasons - rather than using it to keep up with friends and family it's going to become a professional and business tool - more libraries will create Facebook pages, more apps will be produced that work within a Facebook environment, and the development of websites will take a back seat to the development of increasingly interactive Facebook pages.
5. Library closures will continue. I'd hardly say that it's great that they're slowing up, but councils will continually dump their responsibilities onto volunteers. I have no expectations that any political party will take any interest in libraries, except for their own ends. Tories will continue to want to close libraries for ideological reasons, Labour will be quite happy for them to close to show how nasty the Tories are, and as for the LibDems - meh. I'd like to say that any incoming government (ie. not Tory) will reverse changes, but I simply don't see that happening, based on current trends and past experience.
6. The rise in tablets will continue. Half of all Britons are now using tablet devices and this number is not set to decrease any time soon. Tablets are far too easy to use and portable for this not to happen. I'd like to see libraries offering them for loan and I suspect that a few will, but the price, even for cheap ones is going to be far too prohibitive for most.
7. We'll continue to see eBooks on the rise, but that doesn't necessarily mean that printed books will fall; both can co-exist quite happily together, and indeed print books will have a surge of interest if they are able to incorporate the previously mentioned augemented reality. However, I don't see that eReaders have any future whatsoever. Why would they, when a mini tablet can do all that an eReader can do, plus a whole lot more besides? Amazon is fighting back with their own Kindle tablets, but I do wonder just how much longer their proprietory ebook format will last. I think that Barnes and Noble will dump the Nook or try and sell it on.
8. We're going to start talking about 'real time' media instead of 'social media'. As we found with Web 2.0, the terminology doesn't help, and in fact it's going to hinder the development of tools and other resources. Real Time is a far more appropriate term, it doesn't have the 'social' baggage with it, and perhaps finally corporates will see the value of using it. I still see the same objections to social media that I did back in the early 1990s to the internet as a whole, but the barriers will finally break, but not as long as 'social' is the term we prefer to use.
9. Bookshops will continue to close. I can't see anyway in which this won't happen. Bookshops are unable to compete with Amazon, but more to the point, they're not able to compete with supermarkets. The bookshops that continue to prosper will either be particularly niche, such as Forbidden Planet or they will be located very close to libraries, since as we all know libraries increase an interest in reading and purchasing books, not the opposite.
10. The big five publishers will finally realise that they have to work with libraries, rather than regard them as some sort of enemy. 2014 will be the year that both sides can work together to allow libraries to purchase access to entire ebook collections from publishers - this will happen in the United States before it does in the UK, but I think it's inevitable.
11. Content will increasingly become visual. We're seeing an inexorable rise in the way in which infographics are being used, and we'll see more search engines that focus on those, easier ways of producing them and providing content in that format. The ability to create quick videos either using tools such as Vine or just a webcam will become far more popular.
12. Librarians will really take on the mantle of validating authority and content. There's been a real increase in hoax information, either by accident or deliberately within social media, and there will be a real distrust in the information that has been user generated. In order for the profession to do this we're going to have to really embrace social aka real time media, check and validate sources of information and distribute this to our user bases. Librarians have to come out of the closet - very loudly - and say to their members and most importantly to their managers that WE are the ones who understand information, how to find it, arrange it and validate it, and let us get on with our jobs.
13. Wearable technology will be on the increase. Google glass, iWatches, content embedded in physical items will all start to make a proper appearance as the world goes mobile in even larger numbers.
14. The government will continue to try to control what people can see on the internet. They will use the idea of 'protecting the children' as their trojan horse, but in reality they are going to use the ISPs to enforce blocks and bans on what people can see. It's inevitable, as people continually turn to the net to find out what's really going on, and politicians of all stripes really don't like that idea. The library will continue to be a bastion of freedom, but that's going to be under attack as never before - we're already seeing councils censoring content by blocking access to payday loan companies, and once they realise they can get away with that, they're not going to stop.
I think it's going to be an exciting year if you're interested in technology and the new ways in which it can be used - but if your main concern is either privacy or the longer term viability of the library service (not just in the UK, but around the world) it's going to be rather bleak.
Comments welcome - what have I missed out? (I'm aware that Terry Deary will continue to be a twat trying to flog his books by attacking libraries, but that's not a prediction, that's a certainty.) Tell me what you think will happen, and we can reconvene back here at the beginning of 2015 to see what we got right or wrong.