As a new mother, I spend a a lot of time awake with Reed when most sensible people are asleep. Consequently, I’ve seen plenty of infomercials and commercials that are rarely if ever on television when sensible people are awake (my personal favorite is the Lee Majors Bionic Ear — “it won’t cost six million, but you’ll think it’s worth it”). The first time I saw a kgb commercial, though, I assumed that I was so sleepy I hadn’t heard it right. It took seeing a second one another night to make me realize that they’re offering for money what we’ve been offering for free forever.

Get this — kgb (short for Knowledge Generation Bureau) a “unique” service where people can get answers to their questions via text message:

Users who text 542542 (kgbkgb) receive real-time responses to questions any time, day or night, from any cell phone, for a cost of ninety-nine cents.

In one commercial I saw, a man was trying to remember the name of the Red Sox player who lost the Word Series for them in 1986 (Bill Buckner) and kgb gave him the answer. Users pay $.99, plus any fees they normally pay to send and receive text messages. Their questions are answered by “agents”, regular folks who are paid 10 cents per answer they give.

Now, what if there was a service where people could ask questions via text message, IM, phone and email for free, only their questions would be answered by individuals with specialized training in finding the most accurate and authoritative answers? If only such a thing existed! ;)

What does this tell us? People don’t think of librarians when they want answers? Librarians aren’t available when people want answers? Librarians don’t get answers to people quickly enough? Many people would rather get answers via text than phone/IM/email? Or all of the above?

What can we learn from the service kgb provides?