Using ebooks-some basic questions

I have an ereader (Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc.)
I buy my ebooks from a vendor (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc)
I borrow my ebooks from a library.
I didn’t know I could get ebooks from the library!
I do not have an ereader.
I plan to get an ereader in the next 6 months.
I like using my ereader.
I don’t like the idea of an ereader.
pollcode.com free polls

Here are the results of my poll of my readers on e-book use:

There was a total of 16 votes, of which 10 people responded that they had a e-reader.  Respondents could answer any questions applicable.

  • Eight of those e-reader users like using their e-reader.
  • Five people do not have an e-reader
  • Three people don’t like the idea of an e-reader
  • Eight of those who use e-readers buy books from a vendor, and seven of them get their e-reading materials from the library.
  • One person did not realize that the library had e-books available to be downloaded and used like regular borrowing materials.

The impetus of this poll was to see how it stacked up against the Pew Libraries Report (found here.)  The vast majority of those polled had e-readers, similar to the results of Pew that show more people having e-readers.  However, is this because those using social media are more technology savvy and would be more likely to have such devices? Could it be an economic thing?  Probably a combination of both.

I found it heartening that most of those who had an e-reader both bought from vendors AND used the library for e-reading materials.  Pew also states that library users are more aware of this service than in the past; however, we still have a long way to go, both with patrons and with the publishers, to make this an integrated, seamless, and permanent service.  Marketing still needs to go a long way to make sure that all our patrons know about the libraries’ support of e-reading.

There is still some out there who don’t like the idea of e-readers. I used to think, being a lover of the printed word, that I could not rely solely on electronic formats.  However, I do end up using both print and e-books equally.  For me, sometimes I read something online and then download the work related to that interest.  Other times, I will be perusing the bookstore and pick up something in print to read.  I like both.  The one thing, though, that I do miss is seeing a beloved book peeking at me from my bookshelves.  It is a reminder of a pleasant time spent together, and that doesn’t often happen with my online bookshelf.

We may just reach a balance in the not-too-distant future.  I am not sure I believe that everything will be online only, but maybe half and half, or 40% print, 60% e-book.  It will be interesting to see how the later generations, who have different experiences and points of view and who grew up with the Internet, influence or embrace one, or both.

Conclusion:  still some fear and lack of knowledge about e-readers, but e-books are here to stay.  And that’s a good thing, as the important point is that people are reading, learning, thinking, and gaining knowledge.  No matter the medium, the end result is a more educated populace.

Photo by Tom Small

Photo by Tom Small

Take my ebook poll–I am curious to see what others feel and are doing with regards to ereading.

You can go here to take the poll.

I will post the results in the next couple posts.

Privacy and e-books

August 9, 2012

I really liked this article from Andromeda Yelton on Digital Shift:  http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/07/ebooks/ebooks-choices-and-the-soul-of-librarianship/.

If you haven’t read it, it is an excellent look at library values such as privacy, access, preservation, and sharing concerns, and what the implications are for the library of the future.  Here is an excerpt from the conclusion:

I believe it’s important for libraries to do this kind of work. We need to have passionate, engaged conversations, with our eyes open, about which values we most want to defend in the ebook fray — and which we’re willing to compromise on. We need to consider which of many imperfect models offer the best tradeoffs for enacting library values. And we need to do this, not just in service to the patrons of 2012, but to the patrons of 2020 as well. How do the choices we make today affect their options for private, shared, lasting, accessible ebooks?

I also wrote about stepping back a bit from the e-book fray  and being more careful about licensing vs. ownership for our future access.  Recently, privacy issues have become even more concerning.  When I personally buy/download a book, make a post on Facebook, or share a Tweet,  I am making a conscious decision as an individual to put my information out there for various businesses to use, with or without my permission.  As Yelton’s article discusses, printed materials are generally more private, and, in the past, libraries  could more easily protect your privacy for you.  If you look at the EFF’s handy privacy chart, you can see that some e-book businesses monitor and track your purchases and even what you are reading.  They can also share information that you have shared with others outside their companies.  Again, THESE ARE BUSINESSES–they are not libraries, and we really cannot expect them to act as libraries.  However, Yelton brings up an important point: how do we as libraries protect our patrons’ privacy when these businesses basically force us to accept their terms?

Yelton’s article reinforces our need to continue to hold fast to our values and not “give in” just because the landscape is changing so rapidly.  Of course we should have some e-books, and librarians should be developing  plans that will support our patrons and use our monies wisely. I may be willing as an individual to give up some freedoms, but what of our patrons, who possibly are not aware that they are being monitored and tracked and contacted every time they download one of our e-books?  Perhaps we should be educating them and making them aware of this.  Additionally, we should continue to give them options that are not solely licensed with “strings attached,” but truly offer personal privacy.

One of the great things about libraries and librarians is that our values of access, preservation, privacy, and sharing are worthy of acknowledgment and consideration, even in this day and age.  Maybe we as librarians can try to safeguard our values and work on behalf of our patrons to ensure that a balance remains between business needs and personal freedoms.

I initially read this post last week from Bobbi Newman titled “Should Libraries Get Out of the Ebook Business?”.  A scary thought?  Or  good business practice?  Great food for thought, due to the hijinks ensuing in the publishing industry (see the latest bombshell from Random House here).  Even the government has gotten into the fray because of all the confusion.  I encourage you to read all the links here for a full picture of the issues.

To be fair, publishers and Amazon are businesses, with their bottom line the ultimate decision-maker.  Traditionally, libraries have had a somewhat symbiotic relationship with publishers, influencing book purchasing through its patrons.  Libraries have also been a huge supporter of both authors and publishers.  Publishers are now trying to decide how to work with the upended model of publishing that exists with ebook proliferation, self-publishing and digital demand. Each publisher seems to be pursuing its own solution (such as the HarperCollins “26 checkout limit”); however, the losers seem to be libraries.  As Newman states: “libraries (and our patrons) are just collateral damage in the ebooks war.”  From what has been occurring, it doesn’t seem that there is a cohesive or well thought out strategy at this point to include libraries and their patrons, in spite of this past symbiotic relationship.  As more ebooks are in demand by patrons,  and since 74%  want even more ebook access, publishers seem to be panicking about their profits, based upon their reliance on print and conventional revenues.  Libraries seem to be stuck in the middle, with library budgets and ebook availability all over the map.

 A year ago, Meredith Farkas remarked on the flurry of ebook confusion among publishers and librarians. Both Farkas and Newman mention the varied and unstandardized platforms and challenges in providing ebooks through libraries, contrasting with the simple way that patrons get access when buying ebooks (I wrote a post about the difficulty of ebook access through the library).   Farkas also questions how we treat “ownership” of these digital materials, the restrictions of DRM, and how ILL fits in the equation.  These questions remain largely unanswered today.

To put this ebook panic into perspective, as of right now, only 28% of the population own ereaders.  Eighty-five percent of publishers plan to produce both print and digital editions of books, and 42% of publishers still arent’ sure of what EPUB strategy they are going to use (see this cool Infographic on the Aptara report for even more great statistics from the publisher point of view). These statistics alone should give us pause.  This is the time to be cautious and thoughtful as to what libraries’ next steps should be.

I agree with Newman:

Maybe libraries should just stop buying ebooks until there is a real, viable solution to the situation. Do not mistake me, I do not think we should stop looking for a solution or stop advocating on behalf of our patrons, but I do think perhaps we should stop throwing good money at a bad solution.

We should still provide ebooks when applicable, and easily available for our patrons.  We should still work to find solutions that enable our patrons to have information in ANY platform.  But, we should not be held hostage to software, pricing wars, and publisher whims.  If our patrons want something that isn’t available for download, we should be able to articulate to them the challenges libraries are facing,  and why we have made the decisions we have made. Let’s focus on how we can better spend our patron’s money (some good suggestions here).  Once this whole ebook business settles down, we will hopefully have a more streamlined and sane way to provide our patrons with their requested information and entertainment needs, no matter what the format.  THAT is just good business sense.

Seamlessness

January 24, 2012

Earlier this week, I downloaded a book from my local public library, to my iPad. The experience was not all that I wished for, and I decided to write about how transactions with our libraries should be as seamless as possible.

I initially searched some older and new titles and put them on hold (all were already checked out ).  A few days later,  I received a notice that my book was ready to download.  Here is where the process became more complicated:

  • First, I had to click on the link in the email. 
  • Then, I had to log in to site using my library card. 
  • Then I had to click on my account to find the hold. 
  • Once I did that, it took me to the Amazon site, where I had to log into my Amazon account. 
  • Then I had to choose to download the title. 
  • THEN, I received a message that I would not receive the title until I synced my iPad. 

Whew!  And I am used to using this type of technology, so I am wondering how the average patron may find this process.  I am guessing frustration at best, and losing a patron at worst. 

I did a bit of research and found some great links related to e-book downloading.

Don’t misunderstand: libraries seem to understand the idea of seamlessness.  Although we may have to put in a library card number or PIN to access databases and downloads, this is hopefully the only barrier we put up to access.  The process I went through to download a book is not the library’s fault; however, a patron will be turned off by this in a world that you type a question into Google and get a “good-enough” answer instantly, without a need for a password or process.  As a profession, librarians should be striving to create as much of a seamless interface to information for their patrons.  We should advocate with our partners in business to have a say in how the information we are providing is delivered to the patron, and be assuring our patrons’ privacy.

As more and more of our devices and platforms are merged, all of our media is becoming more seamless.  As expectations to seamless access and sharing rise, libraries should anticipate and meet this challenge for both the benefit of the patron and the library as an institution.