Yesterday one of our publishing partners asked that the phone numbers in their catalogue should not be ‘live’. Incidentally, they were very pleased to have the ISBNs targetting their e-commerce engine, but for some reason not so keen on the phone numbers being immediately usable. Ours not to reason why….. the numbers were switched off. We have had such requests before, and it is not difficult for the database to switch phone numbers ‘off’, (ie to ‘non-clickable’) if this is requested. It can be done for a whole publication, or even for individual phone numbers within an otherwise ‘live to call’ publication: (my colleagues will not thank me if this leads to a torrent of requests for shielded phone numbers).

It seems to me absolutely right that authors or publishers should decide for themselves whether links are to be live in their publications. This is not a decision that should be taken by other players in the process. But the reason for having the numbers in the image but not clickable, not immediately usable, struck me as strange: “I honestly do not think anyone will be calling us from Skype or from an iPhone”.

I am probably a minority in using Skype (Skype Out) and the iPhone every day, but I know plenty of academics who Skype a lot, and I am sure there are lots of librarians and booksellers getting into the habit of requesting books, even placing orders, from their iPhone. There will be a LOT more next year when the Android phones start landing.

It is surprising to me how often one goes to web sites that have lots of phone numbers and there is no automatic way of using the phone numbers — except ‘cut and paste’ (which is not a lot of good to iPhone users). The idea that phone numbers should be dead is by no means limited to book publishers. Web publishers make the same mistake. I guess not supporting ‘cut and paste’ on the iPhone is another example of underestimating the way that users will use resources that we make available to them. Users will always do more with whatever is given to them than we can anticipate.