This past year has been a frustrating one for me as an e-book selector and an e-reader trainer. I found that I had to take some time to step back and just calm down. Ranting about the various publishers and their practices did nothing to remedy the situation. This is still true, even as we face another holiday season where our patrons will demand more e-books and need help with new e-readers.
Thinking I’d be ahead of the game this year, I researched and prepared what I thought would be a popular talk on Selecting The Best E-Reader for Your Reading Needs. I prepared endless tables on handouts comparing the latest and greatest offerings from Nook, Kindle, Apple, Samsung, Nexus and several other brands. I was shocked when only eight people signed up to attend the program this past week. I downsized the presentation room and scheduled it for our computer lab, knowing it would comfortably fit a dozen patrons. Then I got another surprise – not only did the eight registered attendees show up, but another eight folks just walked in, ready to participate. I ended up hauling more chairs into the area, but I was delighted that I had a fairly full house.
I took a survey of my attendees and found that only two of them wanted to purchase what I’d call a traditional dedicated e-reader using the e-ink technology. The rest were pretty much sold on one of the various Kindle Fires or a tablet. By far, the iPad Mini was the most popular device of the night. While we all admired the traditional iPad for its retina display, most users were put off by the relative bulk and heft of the device when used as an e-reader. The iPad Mini was judged to be just the right size for holding as a reading device and it weighed less than several of the other tablets. Despite the price difference, it appeared that our patrons were willing to pay quite a bit more just to get the iPad Mini experience.
I have a follow-up program scheduled for the first week in January called Help! I Have a New E-Reader and I Don’t Know How to Use It. It will be interesting to see how many of my folks actually received or purchased an e-reader for Christmas and if they got the one they chose from my program. In addition, I’m holding a small classes for hands-on instruction on downloading to Kindles and Nooks. Hopefully our new device owners will take advantage of these free training opportunities so they can enjoy this new technology.
So while I get discouraged by the lack of progress with publishers, formats and DRM, it’s the new users at our Library that bring me back to reality and keep me excited by this new digital world of e-books.
I received an email from OverDrive this afternoon informing me that all Hachette titles will be increasing in price by approximately 220% as of midnight, September 30, 2012. I should have seen this coming, although I confess that I had hoped that it wouldn’t. Why not? Random House got away with it, so why shouldn’t Hachette take advantage of a captive audience as well! I look at the authors whose works will be skyrocketing – James Patterson, Nelson DeMille, Michael Connelly, Faye Kellerman, David Baldacci, Anita Shreve, Nicholas Sparks, Sandra Brown and many others. We’ve already lost access to all of the authors under the Penguin Publishing unbrella, and we certainly can’t afford to stop buying any bestsellers that are offered, no matter what the price may be.
Who will suffer the most from this outrageous cost hike – our library patrons, of course. Our budgets only stretch so far and we’re heading into the last quarter of our calendar year. Most of us were planning on purchasing additional e-books in anticipation of new patrons who are getting e-readers or tablets over the holidays. Now we’ll be unable to add as many titles as we had hoped, and the wait lists will grow to the point where our users will lose patience and just purchase the e-books from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Is this what the publishers are hoping to achieve?
The American Library Association has been in discussions with the publishers for months now, and we keep hearing that progress is being made in making presenting the library’s point of view. Perhaps that’s true, but if so, Hachette Publishing certainly wasn’t listening very well!
I’ve pretty much taken a vacation from blogging this summer for several reasons. First and foremost, nothing innovative or exciting has taken place as far as public libraries and e-book publishers over the past months. I returned from ALA rather discouraged with what I heard from both publishers and speakers, so rather than just gripe, I’ve been silent. I continue to read updates regarding surveys and follow ALA releases, but nothing revolutionary is forthcoming. Then, I read a blog post that has given me reason for hope.
At the 2011 Digipalooza conference in Cleveland, we heard guest author Joe Konrath talk about his experiences publishing on Amazon. In case you’ve missed his books, Joe writes the “Jack Daniels” mystery series and was published in print format for years. He now publishes his books directly in digital format. Mr. Konrath has his own blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, that I follow regularly. In his most recent post, Joe talks about an e-mail he received from two librarians in Houston Texas who asked if he’d allow them to purchase his e-books directly. As a result of their communication, Konrath has decided to sell his e-books to libraries WITHOUT DRM attached for a very low (and I do mean VERY) price and they will belong to the library forever. This is just unbelievably good news, because in the follow-up comments to this posting, there were other indie authors who also expressed a willingness to do something very similar. This tells me, first and foremost, that authors want libraries to be able to offer e-books to their patrons without jumping through hoops and paying outrageous fees. Joe included his e-mail address in his blog post and suggests that libraries who want to purchase his books simply e-mail him. I have visions of his in-box being overwhelmed with these requests in short order. There are so many librarians out there who are totally frustrated at the current state of affairs that they will be thrilled to work directly with a talented author who sees the value of libraries offering his work.
It has taken all summer for me to be this excited and hopeful. Our library is looking forward to making this process happen and get these titles into our collection. I can only pray that this first move by author Joe Konrath will be the beginning of many other opportunities for new models in providing digital materials to our patrons.
- Plot – (For example, in most detective shows, they are considered “police procedural”)
- Character – (In mystery, you have Sherlock Holmes in every known media whether it’s book, audio or DVD)
- crime – setting…Scandinavian setting big today
- Science fiction – technology is a huge theme
- Romance – the many ways of love…diversity of romance
– Kurt Wallander novels in Ysrad Sweden, (books, tv)
- M.C. Beaton in Sutherland, Scotland - Hamish Macbeth series (books, tv)
-Jesse Russell, Ronald Cohn – in Baltimore Md – Homicide, Life on the Street. (Book, tv, movie)
- Must have a couple (male/female, male/male, female/female)
- Has to be some kind of working steps to some sort of relationship
- Must have a happy ending
Bonk: the curious coupling of science and sex by Mary Roach
- Cyberpunk and steam punk
- Hard science fiction
- Space Opera…Star Trek prime example
- Aliens and invasions
- Dystopias and disasters
- Portal and time travel
- Near future and post-apocalyptic
How to increase circulation and patron satisfaction
- Patrons will ask if they can’t find something
- People know what that are looking for
- Customers have plenty of time to spend at the library
- Most people are browsing
- Few people ask staff for anything, especially with self serve and self checkout. You have more conversations if you are roaming, especially if you are carrying books. “Please ask me a question, I hate shelving” was a catchy badge used in one place.
- Average visit to a public library is between five and ten minutes, including Internet users and those studying, so lots are less than 5 minutes.
- 3 out of 4 shoppers in the States buy on impulse. 50% of decisions to buy are made after the customer enters the store. We need to apply these statistics to our library patrons.
- We have too many books to show well, so how do you make things choosable. We cram things!
- Plan an area near the front of the library. Make a few hot spots. Usage of any unit falls off steeply when less than 70% full. Have top notch books.
- Reader centered approach
- What the book can do for you, not what it is
- More exciting and more engaging
- Can mix different kinds of books to open up reading choices
- More flexible units can top up with many different books… it is never empty.
- Appeal beyond standard genres
- Mix fiction and nonfiction
- Bring books together from different parts of the library together
- Create customer interest through humor, discovery and shared reading experience.
- Dynamic, not static
- Tempting sight lines
- Books keep changing
- Staff out in the space and not behind the desk
- Treat stock as dynamic, not static
- Experiment with merchandising and promotions
- Prioritize the 75% of impulse choosers.
I’ve been a librarian for twenty-eight years, but this is the first time I’ve attended the annual ALA Conference. By far, it’s the largest and most diverse gathering of librarians I’ve ever seen. National conferences like Internet Librarian and Computers in Libraries are dwarfed by this one! I must admit, I was a bit intimidated when I saw the lines and lines of librarians waiting at the registration desk, but we got through in just a few minutes. After getting my badge and bag, I was ready for the Opening Session with our keynote program. I certainly wasn’t disappointed!
Our featured speaker was Rebecca McKinnon, author of Consent of the Networked. She started by talking about the Arab Spring 2011 as an example of how social media can work to get news out to the world, but also how some really troubling revelations came to light as a result of regime change. Egypt was cited as an example of one of the dark sides of the Spring – activists stormed state security offices and found an astounding amount of surveillance data on individuals that had been transmitted to the government. It has become a common thing for foreign governments to be customers of US firms who provide this kind of technology. Ms. MacKinnon used Hewlett Packard as an example of just one company selling surveillance technology to China.
She then posed some interesting questions to our audience. Can technology really be a-political? Do those who produce technology have any moral responsibility to be neutral? She contends tt is the responsibility of government and companies to make sure this happens. Unfortunately, acts like SOPA threatened some of these rights. Intermediary liability was going to force sites like Wikipedia to potentially censor.
Some companies are actually trying for more transparency, including Google. How do we ensure our private information isn’t being abused by Government agencies. All telecommunications companies should have some sort of transparency policy. Only five companies have joined global network initiatives so far.
If we want the Internet to remain compatible with democracy, then we have to work for it. We need a movement in scope and depth of the environmental movement. We need to be stewards of cyberspace.
Certainly her talk provided all of us with lots of food for thought. It was a great way to kick off this conference!
Last week I read OverDrive’s blog entry about their new browser-based eBook reader OverDrive Read that is due out later this year. At first glance, it looks like it is designed to solve a variety of the problems we’ve had with DRM and awkward downloading. According to their blurb, this new product “enables readers using standard web browsers to enjoy eBooks online and offline without first installing any software or activating their device.” What could be negative about this?
The more I thought about it, the more questions it raised in my mind. Sure, it will be great for Kindle Fires and Nook Tablets, but what about the lowly but extremely popular Nook Simple Touch and the new Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight. Neither of these have web browsers that would support this technology. The same would hold true for the older Kindles. Thus, we’d have one group of patrons who could take advantage of OverDrive Read and another group who would be left behind. This immediately brought up the issue of staff and patron training – and how to reach those patrons affected.
Another part of OverDrive’s blog mentioned that OverDrive Read “will enable publishers, authors and retailers to benefit from more direct engagement with readers and to gather data about how users are discovering, browsing and selecting eBooks…” Hmmmm…. that gathering data bit struck me as a bit strange. Will retailers be able to track our library patrons’ reading tastes? Granted, Amazon does that for their Kindle users, but as a library, I don’t want to be a party to this. I need to find out just exactly how this tracking is done and what will be done to protect our user’s privacy.
In two weeks I’ll be heading off to ALA and will certainly take time to talk with our OverDrive representatives and get additional details about this new product. In the meantime, forgive me if I sound just a bit skeptical. To read the complete blog entry, go to: