Monday, October 31, 2011


The opening keynote of the web conference, Ebooks: The New Normal, gave us a view of the current state of the ever-shifting field of ebooks in libraries. Ian Singer, Library Journal's Vice-President, summarized their recent ebook survey:
  • Public libraries have increased their library offerings 185% from 2010 to 2011. That is in spite of three major publishers, McMillan, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, not offering ebooks to libraries yet.
  • 26% of public libraries are considering circulating pre-loaded ereaders or other devices that can be used for ebooks.
  • There has been 66% increase in requests for public libraries that don't have ebooks to carry them.
  • 48% of public libraries not offering ebooks say they will within two years.
  • General adult fiction, general non-fiction and bestsellers are the top 3 categories for public library ebooks, but children's fiction is increasing.
  • 75% of public libraries say new users have been brought to libraries by ebooks.
  • The top three barriers to patrons' library ebook use are: 1) They are not available for their device (may be changing, now that library books are available for Kindle); 2) Downloading is too hard; and 3) Waiting lists are too long.

The keynote panel then identified some of the main issues libraries have around ebooks:

  • We may go for the cheap fix without thinking first.
  • Libraries sometimes have restrictive purchasing policies-- purchase orders may not be an option with ebooks.
  • The stakes are high-- libraries don't want to pay a lot of money if something will be obsolete in a year.
  • There is no digital rights management standard for ebooks, which leads to access frustrations.
  • Patron & library concerns are different -- they may be more concerned with easy access than privacy.
  • Libraries increasingly license rather than buy.
  • We need to design virtual spaces as well as physical spaces--Ebooks don't always come with catalogs that are great for searching and discovery.

John Palfrey, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School, talked about his work on the Digital Public Library of America. The DPLA is a work in progress. They are trying to create a national digital library that would preserve our cultural heritage without being controlled by a for-profit entity such as Google. Other countries are ahead of us in this kind of project. DPLA is trying to create a Wikipedia-like community and encourage collaboration. They envision going across the country to digitize libraries' unique local collections in an RV called a "Scannabego". Computer software companies like Apple and Microsoft are already on board, but DPLA is trying to get more publishers involved, so they can create the right balance between access and copyright.  This article describes some of the issues around the DPLA.

In the program Ebooks: Strategy (not) Required, public librarians discussed their system's ebook strategies.

The King County Library uses browsing lists such as New York Times Bestsellers List and NPR reading lists as ebook discovery tools. They are committed to a
3:1 hold ratio. King County subscribes to Baker & Taylor's Axis 360. They like it because it is device-neutral, has audio and video, is good for picture-intensive titles like picture books and e-books, and they find the Blio software easier to use than Adobe Digital Editions. The main drawback is that it currently works on tablets, computers, and smartphones only, not on ereaders. They are working on having ePub files for ereaders soon--no word on the Kindle format, however.

The Richland County Public Library is very big on training and outreach, as they feel the greatest barrier to ebooks is patron ignorance of availability. They go out to businesses such as restaurants with a mobile lab containing a Nook, iPad, Kindle, mobile Internet hotspot, and laptop and do ebook training. Richland County uses volunteers for some of the training and partners with nearby libraries. They also have "gadget galleries" with coffee and treats, where patrons can try out devices. This training has increased their circulation of ebooks. Richland County is also interested in the 3M Cloud Library because it provides ereaders to check out as well as ebooks.

The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library is taking a look
where their circulation is falling and buying ebooks instead. We have always had to replace old formats with new--compact discs replaced LP's, DVD's replaced videocassettes, the Internet replaced the need for international newspapers and some types of reference books. They have found that patrons read different types of books on e-readers--they may be embarrassed to be seen with a lurid romance cover, but there are no covers on Kindles. Indianapolis-Marion County has not seen a decrease in the hold list for print books, just a total rise in circulation as ebooks are added.


I will leave you with some quotes from the conference's chat and Twitter to think about:

"Only 9% of ebook audience think about going to the library. How are we going to make ourselves relevant for digital content?”

"Crazy that publishers don't even know that librarians are doing the best market research - Readers' Advisory research.”

" We are dealing with a patron population that may be more tech savvy than our staff.

A recording of this conference will be available on the Intranet until January 12, 2012.

--Andrea @ Central

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